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A University of Southampton nanoscientist is working on a new microsystem for more efficient testing of pharmaceutical drugs to treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis, MG (myasthenia gravis) and epilepsy.
Dr Maurits de Planque of ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University will develop a new method to investigate the ion channels that underlie these serious disorders and that are used to test the effectiveness of new drugs.
"At the moment, commercial testing of new drugs is carried out using ion channels in living cell membranes. This is a slow and difficult process, not least because producing too many channels actually kills the cells," said Dr de Planque
The researchers therefore plan to produce these ion channels without using cells, which is possible with so-called cell-free expression mixtures, and to insert the channels in a very stable artificial cell membrane which should enable faster, less expensive drug testing.
"Researchers have experimented with cell-free mixtures before, but they found that this method was not economical due to the amount of expensive biochemicals required," said Dr de Planque. "Our proposal to develop a new platform, which uses a couple of microlitres instead of millilitres, will be a very cost-effective way of doing this, particularly when the produced channel is directly inserted in a membrane for drug testing."
Dr de Planque is conducting this research over a two-year period in
collaboration with biological scientists at the University of Southampton. He is Principal Investigator for the project: Microsystems for Coupled Expression and Electrophysiology of Ion Channels, which has been awarded a grant of £125,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
About University of Southampton
.The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health, arts and humanities.
With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover well in excess of £400 million, the University of Southampton is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.
The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres, including the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute and is a partner of the National Oceanography Centre at the Southampton waterfront campus.
About the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton
With around 500 researchers, and 900 undergraduate students, the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton is one of the world's largest and most successful integrated research groupings, covering Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electronics, Electrical Engineering, and IT in Organisations. ECS has unrivalled depth and breadth of expertise in world-leading research, new developments and their applications.
EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing more than £850 million a year in a broad range of subjects – from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.
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