The Pharmacology group within the Department of Biomedical Sciences has a broad interest in drugs useful for treating pain and used/misused for other purposes - primarily opioids and cannabinoids. Our work focuses on understanding how these drugs work at a molecular and cellular level, both acutely and after chronic administration.  We use fluorescent reporters of membrane potential and intracellular Ca as well as electrophysiological recordings to study human recombinant receptors and ion channels, together with as a range of contemporary biochemical. Students with a strong background in Pharmacology, Physiology or Cell Biology are invited to consider projects in the areas outlined below.  The following papers are examples of current work and potential approaches.

The effects of bioisosteric fluorine in synthetic cannabinoid designer drugs JWH-018, AM-2201, UR-144, XLR-11, PB-22, 5F-PB-22, APICA, and STS-135. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, In Press. PMID: 25921407

The A6V polymorphism of the human µ-opioid receptor negatively impacts signalling of morphine and endogenous opioids in vitro.  Brit J Pharmacol, 172, 2258.  PMID:25521224

Ligand determinants of fatty acid activation of the pronociceptive ion channel TRPA1.  PeerJ, e248. PMID:24516781

Real-time characterisation of Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) allosteric modulators reveals novel mechanism of action. Brit J Pharmacol, 170: 893. PMID:23937487

Potential Projects

Illicit synthetic cannabinoids are associated with significant morbidity and mortality worldwide, and very little is known about what the molecular targets responsible for this toxicity. Projects are available to study the pharmacology of novel SCs in vitro, looking at potential cannabinoid receptor signalling bias and ion channel targets of these compounds.

Cannabis sativa contains dozens of potentially biologically active compounds in addition to the psychoactive THC, and there is a rapid move towards adoption of cannabis itself as a medicine.  Projects are available investigating the pharmacology of cannabis constituents, alone and in combination, using assays of CB receptor and ion channel activity.

µ-Opioid receptors mediate the analgesic and rewarding properties of drugs such as morphine, but there are many genetic variants of the human µ-opioid receptor, the most common of which seem to have an impaired response to some commonly used opioid drugs.  Projects are available to study the signalling and regulation of these human µ-opioid receptor variants by clinically used opioids. 

Professor Mark Connor
Tel: +61 2 9850 2719