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UNC scientists garner new NIH awards for high risk, transformative research
Date:9/23/2009

ular signaling are limited both in terms of the size of the network and the magnitude of changes that scientists can observe at one time. Subtle and rapid changes critical to cell behavior cannot be observed using current laboratory methods and complex cellular networks are beyond the reach of current imaging approaches, so they don't do a good job of imitating what happens in the human body.

Cellular signaling lies at the heart of nearly all cell behaviors, so a better understanding of the subtleties of signaling can generate new insights regarding basic biological processes such as metabolism and aging as well as diseases ranging from cancer to neurological disorders.

Hahn and his colleagues are developing new nanotechnology-based biosensors that work in tandem with the computational approaches developed by the Danuser lab, to enhance sensitivity as neither approach could alone.

Zylka, assistant professor of cell and molecular physiology in the School of Medicine and a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, notes that more Americans suffer from chronic pain than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined. Unfortunately, existing pain relievers are not completely effective for all pain conditions and have serious side effects. These facts highlight what is undoubtedly a critical challenge for modern biomedical research: the need to provide pain relief without serious side effects.

Zylka will directly address this challenge by harnessing particular enzymes found on the membrane of pain-sensing neurons. He will determine if these enzymes can be used alone or in combination to treat acute and chronic pain. These will involve complex studies with genetically modified mice that are missing these enzymes.

In collaboration with Dr. Stephen V. Frye's group in the Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, he will use medicinal chemistry to synthesize "prodrugs," pharmacol
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Contact: Les Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-966-9366
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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