Ion Channels

Ions are charged particles, meaning they cannot pass through cell membranes by simple diffusion; ion channels are proteins embedded into the membrane of cells, allowing for the transport of specific ions into and out of the cell down an electrochemical concentration gradient. They can be found in all excitable cells and often in the membrane-bound intracellular organelles. Ion channels are essential in maintaining homeostasis, through establishing resting membrane potential by gating the flow of ions across the membrane.
Ion channels are passive, with no metabolic energy needed to open them, the specific ion can pass through continuously until and electrochemical equilibrium is established. Multiple types of ion channels exist, used to allow different rates of change depending on the bodily context. Facilitated channels are gated until the correct conditions, either intracellularly or extracellularly, are achieved. Ligand-gated ion channels open in response to the binding of a chemical signal. Voltage-gated ion channels open due to change in electrical membrane potential, opening to allow a rapid change in charge when charged ions travel down the concentration gradient into or out of the cell, this type of ion channel is heavily involved in the nervous system. Promotion or inhibition of ion channels can allow control of ionic movement across a membrane, this has potential to be used in a wide range of medical contexts.

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