PerspectiveMembranes

Improving on aquaporins

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Science  25 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6353, pp. 753
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2440

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Summary

Biological nanopores (1) can selectively and rapidly transport ions and molecules through membranes. For example, many biological ion channels conduct only one type of ion across the cell membrane, and they do so in response to external stimuli. Aquaporins transport water at astonishingly high rates (2, 3) and are efficient desalination units, in that they have excellent rejection of all ions, including protons. On page 792 of this issue, Tunuguntla et al. (4) present an artificial nanopore system that sustains water fluxes exceeding those of aquaporins, exhibits ionic selectivities comparable to those of biological ion channels, and consists of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) that are 10 nm long and merely 0.8 nm in diameter embedded in a lipid bilayer (4, 5).