Customer profile: Alen Eapen
Name: Alen Eapen
Qualifications: B.Sc., M.Sc. Pharmacology
Job title: PhD student
Place of work: University of Bristol, Physiology,Pharmacology and Neuroscience
Supervisor: Professor David Jane
Publications: I am currently working on these!
Can you tell us about your background?
I am a trainee pharmacologist and in my career to-date, I have investigated physiology in disease models and studied how drugs act to alter physiology.
Originally, I did my Bachelors in pharmacology at University College London (UCL) and then went on to do my Masters in King’s College London (KCL). During my Masters, I investigated synchrony of neural oscillations between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in a genetic model of schizophrenia.
Can you summarise your research and role now?
My PhD project involves developing novel subunit selective kainate receptor antagonists. Drug development is an iterative process which involves collaboration with chemists to develop structure activity relationships for novel compounds using physiological techniques and computer modelling.
Why is this research important?
It’s only been recently that the role of kainate receptors in the brain has been studied. One reason for this is due to the difficulty in isolating kainate receptor responses from AMPA receptor responses - as most compounds that act on kainate receptors also act on AMPARs. Therefore there’s a problem with non-specificity of current pharmacological tools. Our aim is to make new pharmacological tools that are more specific and to use these tools together with genetic techniques to elucidate the relevance of kainate receptors for neuronal physiology.
What techniques do you use?
Mainly electrophysiology – for example field recordings from acute hippocampal slices. We also do calcium fluorescence recordings from HEK293 cells that are transfected with kainate and AMPARs. We use molecular modelling to carry out virtual screening of potential lead compounds and further study the structure activity relationships that we observe.
What Hello Bio products have you used in your research?
I’ve used NBQX disodium, Picrotoxin, Bicuculline and D-AP5 from Hello Bio in my research.
Why are you using those particular products / what are you using them for?
We use NBQX to block AMPAR/KARs and isolate NMDAR EPSPs, APV (D-AP5) to block NMDARs and picrotoxin and bicuculline to block GABAARs.
What has using these products helped you to achieve?
By blocking one type of ion channel (e.g. NMDARs) I've been able to study the specific effect of my test compounds on other ion channels (e.g. AMPARs/ Kainate receptors).
It’s all about getting subunit specific effects of the compound that we’re investigating and we don’t want non-specific effects of the test compound to influence the responses.
Therefore, we use compounds like D-AP5, NBQX etc. to block all other receptors that are not under investigation.
What are your ambitions for your future career?
I would like to contribute to the development of novel kainate receptor antagonists using advances in molecular modelling techniques and to better understand the effect of antagonists using more advanced electrophysiological techniques. Ultimately, for me, it is about discovering the physiological and therapeutic relevance of these receptors.
Thanks Alen - good luck with your research! Are you a happy Hello Bio customer? Share in the comments below, on our Facebook Page, or tweet us @hello_bio