Through his innovative research, Erwin Neher opened up a whole new field in cellular and membrane biology. Erwin co-discovered the existence of single ion channels and co-developed a technique that enables scientists to measure the miniscule electrical currents that pass through each ion channel. By allowing the passage of ions through the membranes of cells in our body, ion channels thereby mediate important signals such as nerve impulses and hormonal signals.
His ‘patch clamp’ technique is now used in laboratories around the world to investigate the many different types of ion channels and their roles. It has had an immeasurable impact on our understanding of physiological phenomena, allowing research into the association of ion channels with a range of conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and anxiety disorders.