New Targets for Drug Therapy
A drug target is a protein in the body whose activity can be changed by a drug, leading to a specific effect—such as treatment or an adverse reaction. For researchers who work in drug discovery, most new targets are proteins. Among them, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest known family.
In fact, data from the human genome project estimate that the GPCR super-family has more than 675 members and makes up more than two percent of the human genome.
More than half of all prescription drugs target the GPCR super-family, highlighting the central role that these receptors play in treating or managing human disease. For example, certain GPCRs can control the activities of the neurons that are compromised in diseases like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's and Huntington's.
Yet the potential for these receptors to serve as novel drug targets remains virtually untapped. Dr. Stephen Ferguson, Canada Research Chair in Brain and Mind at the University of Ottawa, is studying how the GPCR receptor family is regulated in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, with a view to developing new ways to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.
Ferguson and his research team are trying to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie the signalling and desensitization of GPCRs. Ultimately, their work may lead to developing new therapeutic treatments for these diseases.