Assistant Professor Chris Richards (UK Chemistry) and Professor James Pauly (UK Pharmacy) have been awarded funding to help elucidate the mechanism of nicotine addiction and to identify targets for nicotine cessation therapeutics. The $760,000 grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health is titled "Single Molecule Determination of nAChR Structural Assembly for Therapeutic Targeting.”
The consumption of tobacco products is connected to several severe health risks. Smokers have a higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and several types of cancer. As a result, approximately 20% of all deaths in the United States are associated with consumption of tobacco products.
“We developed a technique to examine the organelle specific stoichiometry of nicotinic receptors, which is the basis for this grant” said Richards, whose research in single molecule imaging has paved the way to a suite of advanced optical microscopy techniques for studying the assembly, trafficking, and function of membrane receptors involved in nicotine addiction.
This grant will allow the UK researchers to extend their studies to understand how nicotine alters the assembly of membrane receptors in vivo. “We are now using a set of fluorescent protein knock-in mice that contain receptors that have been genetically encoded,” Richards said, “which will help us study how nicotinic receptor assembly is altered due to exposure to nicotine.”
Richards and Pauly plan to use this approach, which utilizes single molecule imaging of receptors isolated from live animals, to help elucidate the mechanism of nicotine addiction and to identify target nAChR assemblies and phenotypes for nicotine cessation therapeutics.