On Tuesday 23 May 2023, the Department welcomed Peter Agre, MD, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, to deliver a special lecture titled “Aquaporin Water Channels – From Atomic Structure to Clinical Medicine” in the Blakemore Lecture Theatre.
Professor Agre won The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2003 for his discovery of the aquaporin water channels, which are essential to all living organisms. The function of many of the body's cells is reliant on channels that allow water to move rapidly in and out of them, yet for a long time no one knew what they looked like. In 1991, Professor Agre isolated a protein, now called aquaporin, that he proved was the much sought after 'water canal'. This discovery spurred a revolution in both animal and plant physiology and in medicine. Further studies have demonstrated that aquaporins are critical for the kidney's ability to reabsorb water, and have also implicated the protein in the pathogenesis of many water balance disorders.
Professor Agre's lecture outlined the characteristics of each of the aquaporin (AQP) water channel proteins. The audience learned some of the pathological consequences of both under- and -over-expression of AQPs, such as fluid retention in congestive heart failure (AQP2) and brain edema (AQP4). Professor Agre also demonstrated how practical applications of aquaporin technology could benefit both disease prevention efforts and agricultural production.
Professor Agre’s host Dr Mootaz Salman said: "We were honoured to have Professor Agre with us. His discovery of aquaporins laid the foundation for much of the work in the department today. It was fascinating to listen to his science journey and remarkable achievements. Everyone felt inspired by his dedication and accomplishments as an interdisciplinary researcher and his excellence in teaching the next generation of scholars.”
After the lecture, attendees gathered for a drinks reception in the Sherrington reception foyer, where Professor Agre took time to meet with researchers and students from the Department and wider University.