Research

Richards, Pauly Research Mechanism of Nicotine Addiction

Confocal image of fluorescently labelled proteins
Confocal image of fluorescently labelled proteins.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 13, 2017) Two University of Kentucky professors have been awarded funding to help elucidate the mechanism of nicotine addiction and to identify targets for nicotine cessation therapeutics.

The researchers — Assistant Professor Chris Richards in the Department of Chemistry in the UK College of Arts and Sciences and Professor James Pauly in the UK College of Pharmacy — were awarded a $760,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health to pursue their research, "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 percent of all deaths in the United States are associated with consumption of tobacco products.

“We developed a technique to examine the assembly of nicotinic receptors in different subcellular regions, 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.

Richards and Pauly plan to use this approach to help explain the mechanism of nicotine addiction and to identify target receptor assemblies for nicotine cessation therapeutics.

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