My name is Dr. James A. Letts. I am going to be experimenting with this blog as a means of exploring topics in Science that interest me.

I have started a blog!


Firstly, it is my intention to use this blog to write about my interests in the fields of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Secondly, there are a lot of important and interesting scientific ideas and concepts that never seem to make it into the traditional scientific journals. I can think of several discussions that I have had with my fellow researchers that, if made more accessible, may benefit the community. In the traditional scientific media, these sorts of informal scientific notions don’t really have a place to be expressed and discussed. My hope is to provide a place here on LettsScience.

Finally, I would like to foment discussion. I am very interested in getting feedback on my posts from peers in the scientific community. I called this blog LettsScience as a pun on my name, of course, but also in an attempt to encourage discussion and inclusiveness— it isn’t “WatchMeScience”. My sincere hope is that, as time goes on and other scientists discover my blog, discussions will take place that will expand and improve the original posts. So, if you have any feedback, please leave a comment! Or, even better, if you have an idea for a post that you would like to publish on LettsScience, please feel free to contact me about it.

Who is this blog for?

Since my goal isn’t to write a popular science blog, some degree of scientific literacy is assumed. The style of the blog will be somewhat formal with strict use of referencing, but I intend for the tone to be much less formal and more accessible than that of traditional scientific articles. The ideal reader is anyone interested in cutting-edge science, anywhere from advanced high school students and undergraduates to professors and other scientific professionals.

In the beginning, I intend to write mostly about things that are closely related to what I work on. As time goes by, I hope to expand to topics with which I am less directly involved, but that I find particularly interesting. If, in the future, other scientists wished to contribute to the blog, it could grow to encompass many different areas of research.

If you would like to learn more about me check out the My work page or my ResearchGate profile
James A. Letts

6 Responses to “About”
  1. Smitta says:

    nice attempt

  2. Roddy Large says:

    Im currently working on novel BK Channel openers trying to elucidate the binding site and mode of action. I found the recent Nature publication on gating from your lab really interesting and having just discovered your blog I’m looking forward to reading it on a regular basis.

  3. Ethelyn says:

    I’d like to know the correlation between cellular positive charge on the outside, negative charge on the inside AND pH.
    I also want to know the result of a slight electrical charge (e-stim) on muscle cells – or the whole body such as a shock etc or sleeping on a heating pad.
    I have circumstantial evidence but need biochemical knowledge to back up my theories regarding the un-beneficial use of e-stim in physical therapy. Even though it has an immediate benefit of “no pain” but the long term effect of muscle fiber dehydration elicits chronic uncurable pain.
    The traumatization of a nerve by e-stim, thus over-acidifying the area, only swings the pendulum only to return.
    Please tell me about cellular pH.
    I am a 58 year old massage therapist and need the knowledge, and possible research resources to validate my theory in my book: Pain Is Illegal!

    I kindly thank you,

    Ethelyn Schaeffer,LMT, PTA

    • lettsscience says:

      Hello Ethelyn,
      The electrical potential across the cellular membrane is set by the different concentration of ions (mainly K+ and Na+) inside and outside of the cell. This imbalance in ion concentrations is maintained by the activity of the Na+/K+-ATPase pump. Because the resting cellular membrane is more permeable to K+, due to the presence of inward rectifier K+ (IRK) channels, the cellular resting potential approaches the Nernst equilibrium potential for K+. Check out this Wikipedia article to learn more about it. Although there is a significant potential across the cellular membrane there isn’t actually a significant difference in charges across the membrane. Only very few K+ ions have to cross the membrane in order to generate the potential. This article may also be useful to you.

      The relationship between the resting potential and pH depends on many factors including but not limited to: pH difference across the cellular membrane (known as ∆pH), the membrane permeability to protons and the metabolic state of the cell. In general, cells try to maintain a constant intracellular pH from ~6.8 – 7.4 depending on the cell type, however, during burst of metabolic activity cells can generate a lot of protons causing a significant decrease in intracellular pH. When this happens the membrane potential can be affected and the cells can become depolarised (the membrane potential becomes more positive). These transient changes are then corrected by the activity of transporters and channels in the plasma membrane that let the protons out of the cell thereby returning intracellular pH to normal levels.

      During muscle stimulations and contractions Ca2+ ions are released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum into the muscle cells, the Ca2+ activates myosin which causes the hydrolysis of ATP and and dissociation of ADP from myosin resulting in the “power stroke” of contraction (for a more detailed account check this out). This process is repeated using up a great deal of ATP. In order to quickly recover cellular ATP levels the cells undergo anaerobic metabolism which generates a lot of intracellular H+. These protons would then be dumped into the surrounding tissue potentially over-acidifying the area.

      I am certainly not an expert on muscle or tissue damage but would be happy to answer any more questions you have about cellular electricity and cellular pH. I think you would find the book Ion Channels of Excitable membranes a valuable resource for your book.

      Best of luck with the writing.

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