Over the last 20 years the combination of patch clamp and molecular biology techniques have resulted in an explosion in our knowledge of the different calcium channel types and their roles in physiology. A crucial component to this advance has been the discovery of specific blockers for different calcium channel types. These blockers have not only permitted researchers to assign specific functions to different channel types, but their specificity allowed them to be used to treat diseases that resulted from enhanced calcium channel function. In some cases, the enhanced calcium channel function is secondary to other problems leading to increased cellular excitability. The specificity of calcium channel blockers, however, has provided a means to treat symptoms of the pathophysiology until more effective treatments become available to address the underlying problems. The goal of this review is to introduce the various types of calcium channels, their primary physiologic roles, drugs that block these channels, and diseases that are currently being treated with these drugs.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.