Dr. Harald Janovjak

All optical evaluation of ion channel pharmacology.
Recent work in neurobiology has harnessed light activated proteins for the optical control of cellular activity in experiments termed "optogenetics". It was recently proposed that the same light-activated proteins may also enable novel approaches in the evaluation of pharmacological agents. By utilizing light both as activator and read out these approaches should be "contactless" and thereby simplified and reduced in cost. Our previous results demonstrated the feasibility of the all optical approach at cell signaling receptors and signaling pathways. The goal of the proposed project is to extend this work towards ion channels and establish an experimental platform for the all optical and contactless evaluation of inhibitors and modulators. Workplan: In a typical experiment, living mammalian cells in multi-well plates will be genetically-modified such that light of separate wavelengths is utilized both as the stimulus (activating the ion channel and/or cell signaling) and as the read-out (reporting ion channel activity). Several independent methods for the contactless activation of ion channels are within reach and choice will be guided by ion channel type. Networking: The project will benefit from close collaboration with the Maulide, Mihovilovic and Herring labs and their activities in the fields of organic synthetic chemistry and ion channel structure, function and pharmacology. Methods: The student will learn the full repertoire of state-of-the-art techniques in optical development, ion channel function and small molecule screening.