Ion channels are the fastest cellular signalling system in our bodies functioning on the millisecond timescale. They are activated by a wide range of stimuli covering chemical (ligands including changes in pH), electrical (membrane voltage changes) and physical (temperature and stretch) modes. Because of the wide range of triggers and speed with which they transmit signals, ion channels are the “first responders” to changes that occur in a cells environment in both physiological and pathophysiological conditions. Thus, studying how ion channels in different cell types function under these conditions is crucial to understanding the initiation and development of most disease states, as well as identifying novel drug targets.

Given the crucial role of ion channels in normal physiology, many venomous predators (spiders, scorpions, sea anemones, wasps etc.) have evolved libraries of molecules that potently interfere with ion channel function in order to rapidly paralyse prey.  The Ion Channel Pharmacology lab uses animal venoms as well as man-made drugs to help understand the function and modulation of various ion channels in health and disease. We have a particular focus on acid-sensing ion channels and voltage-gated sodium channels and their role in pain, inflammation and neurological disorders such as stroke and spinal cord injury.

The broad research fields of the group cover pharmacology, physiology, biochemistry and toxinology. The expertise and techniques employed include electrophysiology (Xenopus oocytes), high-performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, molecular biology, peptide and protein production & mutagenesis, cell culture/assays, organ bath assays.