Biologists are vigorously and enthusiastically exploring the structure and function of channels known as connexins, which link cells to one another. Connexin research is "hot," says one scientist heavily involved in the field, as investigators seek to answer a host of questions ranging from what passes through these channels to when and why they appear and disappear. Understanding how these channels work may also lead to improved drugs for diseases linked with connexin mutations. "From my perspective, what has made connexins hot is their association with a number of human diseases. We now have good evidence that mistakes in connexin genes underlie these disorders," says Alan Shiels, assistant professor of ophthalmology and genetics at Washington University. Shiels is studying the link between connexin mutations and inherited cataracts.

Daniel Goodenough, professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School, whose recent research points to a possible link between connexin mutations...

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