Jon Sack

image of Jon Sack

Assistant Professor


Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine
Physiology & Membrane Biology

Offices and Labs

4126 Tupper Hall
4135 Tupper Hall


2003 Ph.D. Biological Sciences Stanford University
1997 B.A. Biochemistry Reed College

Research Interests

Developing new means of imaging and controlling ion channel signaling

Ion channel proteins in our cell membranes create electrical signals. Ion channels control many physiological processes including hormone secretion, heartbeat, muscle contraction, and neurotransmission. In the Sack lab we study ion channels themselves, as this fundamental physiology research has implications for every electrically excitable cell in our body. Our focus is on creating molecular tools to image and control the physiological activity of specific voltage gated ion channels. These research tools have potential uses for study or treatment of many disease states such as cardiac arrhythmia or neuropathic pain that involve electrical signaling dysfunction

Seeing ion channel activity

Our ion channels can open and close hundreds of times per second, but this activity has been invisible to medical imaging technologies. We have recently developed methods that, for the first time, enable imaging of ion channel activity without genetic or chemical modification of the channel's structure, and thus have potential as medical diagnostic imaging agents. Our imaging methods involve molecules that bind to ion channels only when they adopt specific conformations. When ion channels change their activity, the probes bind to or dissociate from the channels. We have labeled these probes with fluorescent reporters, so ion channel activity can be imaged by today's radically advancing fluorescence microscope technologies. Ion channel activity probes are a first step towards new medical imaging technology that could diagnose the functioning of specific ion channels in health and disease.

Controlling ion channel activity

The human body expresses hundreds of different types of ion channel proteins. Each channel type has a distinct, unique physiological function. Many physiologic events such as insulin secretion, or pain signaling are driven by a unique complement of ion channels. These processes can be up- or down-regulated by modulating their ion channels. We are developing serial strategies to selectively modulate ion channel types that control specific physiological functions. Our goal is to develop selective ion channel therapies without reduced side-effects that control electrical dysfunctions, such as neuropathic pain.

CBS Grad Group Affiliations

Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology
Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Specialties / Focus

Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology
  • Cellular Physiology
  • Molecular Physiology
  • Neurophysiology