Lecturer: David Lundbek Egholm, Professor of Geophysics, Aarhus University
Author Lotte Kaa Andersen is a Master’s degree in Economics. in literary history and media studies from Aarhus University. For the last two years of her university days, she lived in London where she studied communication and journalism and specializing in American literature. Since then, Lotte has been a copywriter at an advertising agency and later a freelance copywriter, journalist and writing coach in her own company. Lotte has received numerous scholarships and nominations throughout her career.
Our cells are completely dependent on salt. In the membranes of cells sits a tiny nanomachin machine – called the sodium potassium pump – which carefully sorts different salt ions. Research in recent years has shown that failures in the pump cause rare diseases.
The vast majority of Danes eat plenty of salt every day. It’s easy to get, and it makes our food taste much better.
When humans and other animals are so fond of salt, it is because our bodies and cells are completely dependent on it. The ordinary kitchen table salt consists of sodium and chloride ions, and when we eat salt, our cells very carefully sort the ions. Our cells can exploit the imbalance in the electrically charged ions for many different tasks – just as the electrical power in your electrical outlet can be used to power both the refrigerator and the computer.
Ions form the basis for our nerve cells to send the signals that become our senses and thoughts, so that the heart can beat and that the sperm can swim to the egg.
Because the ion balance in our cells is so important, it can lead to disease if the balance is affected by a hereditary gene defect. And when, for example, the scorpion and thimble plant are so dangerous to us, it is precisely because they have both developed toxins that change the ion balance.
The primary ion sorting machine in the body is the sodium-potassium pump in the membranes of cells. The sodium potassium pump was first described by Aarhus researcher Jens Christian Skou in 1957.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for this discovery in 1997, and much research is still being done to understand the complicated pump. And it keeps surprising us. Over the past ten years, we have both begun to gain a detailed understanding of how the pump acts as a tiny nanomachin, and we have discovered that failures in it can cause various rare diseases.
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