Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care

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Molecular Pharmacology of Anesthetics and Analgetics

This mature program focuses on how the inhaled anesthetics work at the most fundamental level.

These drugs, introduced over 160 years ago, are now used in almost 100 million patients per year, and are the most toxic of all approved pharmaceuticals. Being volatile, low affinity and promiscuous, their mechanism has been particularly enigmatic.

Roderic Eckenhoff, MD  searches for novel anesthetic targets using a variety of approaches, and verify binding site features through direct binding measurements, structural studies and spectroscopy. The Eckenhoff lab has been instrumental in developing new methodology for characterization of inhaled anesthetic binding, and are now entering the drug discovery arena.

Max Kelz, MD, PhD focuses on specific brain regions, notably the sleep centers, as being uniquely involved in the hypnotic actions of the inhaled anesthetics.He uses a combination of sensitivity phenotyping, EEG analyses, slice electrophysiology, and optogenetics to explore the overlap between sleep and anesthesia.

Renyu Liu, MD, PhD, a new faculty member and current FAER award recipient, is exploring the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of opioids using biochemical and biophysical approaches.

This theme is marked by strong collaborations with the departments of Biochemistry/Biophysics, Pharmacology, and the Sleep Center in the School of Medicine, the Departments of Biology and Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences, and institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh and Drexel University. The interdisciplinary approach is highlighted by support from an NIGMS program project grant (P-01 55876). Many cutting edge approaches in biophysics, biochemistry, genomics and proteomics are being employed.




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