1University of British Columbia, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Vancouver, Canada
2St. Leonards Australia, Surgical Diagnostics Ltd
Biological ion channels are water-filled subnano-sized pores formed by protein molecules in the membranes of all living cells [1, 2]. Ion channels in cell membranes play a crucial role in living organisms. They selectively regulate the flow of ions into and out of a cell and regulate the cell's biochemical activities. In the past few years, there have been enormous strides in our understanding of the structure–function relationships in biological ion channels due to the combined efforts of experimental and computational biophysicists . The 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to R. MacKinnon for determining the crystallographic structures of several different ion channels, including the bacterial potassium channel [4, 5]. This chapter focuses on another recent advance in biological ion channels: The design of biosensors that exploit the selective conductivity of ion channels. Such ion-channel-based biosensors can detect target molecular species of interest across a wide range of applications. These include medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and general biohazard detection.
The ion-channel-based ...