Fundamentals

Extraordinary ordinary patch-clamp

BY      |     January 15, 2020

On 4th November 2019 Nature published the collection of 10 key papers from its archive. The paper on patch-clamping by Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann (1976) has been selected as 1 out of 10 extraordinary Nature papers. That’s big news. But does it sound exciting to you? For me, it was interesting, maybe even surprising (I always thought that patch-clamp is number 1, and not 1 out of 10), but not exciting.

After the Nobel Prize, we became accustomed to the fact that everyone praises the patch-clamp technique here and there. For ion channel scientists, patch-clamp became the “ordinary” part of everyday life. The same is true for other “ordinary” things, like DNA, monoclonal antibodies, iPSCs or nano-something.

By having everyday access to EXTRAORDINARY things, we get used to them and forget about their extraordinariness. Your once extraordinary girlfriend/boyfriend becomes an ordinary wife/husband (For you, not for your neighbor. That’s important.). Your extraordinary brand new car will become a used car tomorrow (again, just for you). We don’t notice the extraordinary creations of Mother Nature, like the Sun, the Sky, grass, trees, and bird singing around us. We are accustomed to all these things. We don’t think about them as extraordinary anymore. Nevertheless, they are and always will be EXTRAORDINARY.

You know, I always considered the patch-clamp technique as a Big Deal. However, I never thought about how big it is, what the real impact is. So, when I saw the news that patch-clamp is 1 of 10 I wasn’t excited about it, but, when I got deeper and saw all 10 selected extraordinary Nature papers, I was more than surprised. The comparison did its job. Look at this: Nature (journal) characterized our dear patch-clamp as “a breakthrough method that became vital to neuroscience” and listed it side by side with such revolutionary discoveries as the discovery of a composite particle kaon, the first-ever production of monoclonal antibodies, the finding of Australopithecus, the discovery of cage-like carbon molecule, the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, the synthesis of ordered mesoporous molecular sieves, the discovery that cell differentiation can be reversed, the discovery of the helical structure of double-stranded DNA and the detection of the first exoplanet around a Sun-like star.

Isn’t that cool? What a great collection!

Just “1 out of 10” – this is not super exciting, but when you see the other 9 you understand that being listed in this group is a big thing. Patch-clamp and Australopithecus. Patch-clamp and exoplanets. Patch-clamp and ozone hole. You know, till today I would never come up with a sentence (that makes sense) containing, for example, “patch-clamp” and “ozone hole”. Now I can. Or, what about a question like this: What is common between patch-clamp, Australopithecus and a kaon? (It sounds like a joke, by the way.) We now know the answer. Also, we now know one more way of how to promote patch-clamp to students.

Overall, this collection of 10 extraordinary Nature papers is really a nice thing to read. Very informative. I highly recommend it. Patch-clamp has regained its status as an extraordinary thing in our life. At least, for some time. It’s good for us. Try to do the same with your amazing loved ones. Remember how extraordinary they are. You won’t regret it. You’ll be happy.

Have an extraordinary patching experience and see you soon.


Image by Todd MacDonald from Pixabay


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