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Thioredoxin is a naturally occurring protein. Its existence has been known to be secreted by the body to counter stressful chemical reactions that occur with inflammation.

What wasn’t known about thioredoxin is its ability to open ion channels, which allow the movement of ions. Ions are electrically charged atoms across a cell’s membrane that carries out a variety of functions, such as pain transmission, timing of the heart beat, and regulation of blood glucose. Until now, the only two ways known for activating the ions was a change in cell voltage and the binding of chemical factors.

Professor Beech and colleagues, University of Leeds, discovered that thioredoxin can also activate ion channels. It is known that inflammatory diseases cause the production of high levels of thioredoxin–in fact with rheumatoid arthritis it is striking how much thioredoxin is present in affected joints. Now, with a better understanding that thioredoxin can also activate ion channels there is the opportunity for developing drugs that mimic the effect of thioredoxin and provide future development for treatments of arthritis and related diseases.

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