Project to develop bilayer lipid membranes to evaluate effectiveness
29 June 2010
An array of artificial cell membranes that will enable more
efficient testing of potential new drugs is being developed by
scientists at the University of Southampton and Birkbeck College,
University of London
The Bilayer Platform project, which begins this month, has been
awarded £1.2 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council to develop a new technology that uses artificial
bilayer lipid membranes to evaluate the effectiveness of drugs on
Professor Hywel Morgan and Dr Maurits de Planque at the
University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer
Science (ECS) will use the clean room technology in the new
Mountbatten Building at the University of Southampton to build this
novel platform for parallel on-chip electrophysiology. Each membrane
patch will contain different ion channels.
According to Dr de Planque, ion channels play a pivotal role in a
wide variety of physiological processes and diseases and are
consequently of considerable interest to the pharmaceutical
industry. It is for this reason the Southampton group has teamed up
with the Birkbeck group, led by Professor Bonnie Ann Wallace, who
are international experts in ion channel structure and function.
At the moment, pharmaceutical companies use electrodes to test
entire cells, which can be expensive and involves testing a number
of ion channels within the cell.
About 60% of drugs work on membrane proteins (of which ion
channels are a subclass) and the effectiveness of the drug is gauged
by measuring activity in the ion channel as a result of
administering the drug.
"By putting the ion channel into an artificial membrane, we only
have one type of channel, no living cells and a relatively
inexpensive method for testing for several of these types of
channels at once," said Dr de Planque.
The project, which will take just over three years, will benefit
public and private sector industries, as well as driving new
research for the treatment of diseases such as chronic pain,
epilepsy, and certain types of heart disease. The new technology
platform will have many applications for drug discovery and testing
long after the research period ends.