Understanding cellular regulation and communication
Our research into ion channels, transporters and signalling is some of the most basic science in the Department. It underpins our understanding of cellular activity, organ function and disease – and inspires the development of new treatments.
Ion channels and transporters are perhaps the most fundamental interface between cells and their surroundings, which makes understanding their function a vital part of understanding how the body works. From establishing how potassium channels affect insulin secretion, through the role of nutrient transporters in cancer growth, and the involvement of calcium channels in gene expression, to understanding metabolic signalling in the heart, all our work considers the microscopic behaviour of the cell but helps explain the macroscopic function of the body.
As a result our studies have wide-ranging implications that belie their tight focus. Through understanding how basic cell function is related to larger-scale conditions comes an increased ability to target our attentions and focus on the most important physiological questions. While our work is fundamentally about improving our understanding of human physiology, then, it lends itself naturally to translating basic science into treatments.
Most recently our understanding of potassium channels has led directly to the adoption of sulphonylurea in the treatment of neonatal diabetes, while insight into the behaviour of calcium-release-activated channels has given rise to a potential treatment for allergic asthma which is currently being developed for clinical trials. As we continue to embrace new technologies and further our theoretical understanding, we look set to answer many more scientific and clinical questions in the coming years.