Potassium channel openers have diverse actions ranging from vasodilation to promotion of hair growth. These drugs can also render the heart, and most likely other tissues, resistant to ischaemic necrosis, raising the possibility that they might prove useful in myocardial infarction and stroke. New research points to mitochondrial ATP-dependent K+ channels, not their classical surface membrane counterparts, as the likely effectors of the cardioprotective effects of K+ channel openers. Here, the evidence implicating mitochondrial channels and the prospects for novel drug development are reviewed.
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