Waves, Rhythms and Oscillations: the pacemaker molecules that enable our body to keep the beat
Bina Santoro completed her studies at the University of Rome, where she was trained as a molecular biologist and received a PhD in Evolutionary Biology. She has since specialized in the study of electrical signaling in the nervous system and the molecules responsible for it, namely ion channels. Her interests particularly concern a class of ion channels responsible for the generation of oscillatory, rhythmic electrical activity in the brain, as well as in the heart (pacemaker channels). She first identified the family of genes that encode pacemaker channels, and is still involved in the study of their molecular expression pattern and cellular organization, a field in which she is considered one of the leading experts. Her work is aimed both at understanding basic mechanisms of brain function, with a specific focus on the neural substrates for learning and cognition, as well as at understanding diseases due to electrical disturbances, including epilepsy and cardiac arrhythmias. Bina Santoro is an Associate Research Scientist in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University, where she works in collaboration with a group of biophysicists, electrophysiologists and geneticists interested in ion channel function.