Targeting Proteins to Block Pain
UAlbany Biologist Sho-Ya Wang has been awarded four patents based on her research on sodium channels, a class of proteins which play an important role in the effect of bioactive components ranging from local anesthetics to animal toxins.
Sodium channels conduct sodium ions (Na+) through a cell’s plasma membrane. Wang’s research is focused on the topology and functioning of the receptors in sodium channels that are targeted with local anesthetics. The targeting action normally results in the blocking of the sodium channels, thereby eliminating pain, but in cases of chronic or intractable cancer pain, the duration of the blocking action is often not sufficient. Wang is seeking to develop compounds that would more effectively block sodium channels and serve as longer-acting local anesthetics.
Wang’s patents cover mutant cell lines and a method for assessing the potential of compounds to modulate voltage-gated sodium channels. For example, the method could be used to screen drug candidates for their ability to treat a pathological condition, such as cardiac arrhythmia, that is manifested by increased persistent late sodium currents in the heart.
Furthermore, the invention provides the basis for a high throughput screen, which could accelerate the search for therapeutic agents.