Science explained

A general introduction on the Neurocypres Project

All over the world, scientists are trying hard to determine the three dimensional structure of membrane proteins as a crucial step for novel pharmacological research. The Neurocypres project focuses on a specific group of ion channels, which are present in the cell membrane of neuronal cells and muscle cells. This class of physiologically very important channels is called Cys-loop receptors (CLRs).

CLRs can be activated by transmitters that are able to open a channel in the receptor leading to a flux of ions through the membrane. The flow of these ions causes excitation or inhibition of neurons, and can make neurons to start releasing transmitters.

Thus CLRs are crucial to communication in the brain, and of the nervous system with the muscles of our body. CLRs have been identified as potential targets for drugs that can be used to treat several important brain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, certain forms of epilepsy, and tobacco addiction.

Because of the importance of the CLRs in the brain, the Neurocypres project aims at generating three-dimensional information on the structure of these receptors in order to understand how they can bind compounds and how they are subsequently activated.

The European Union has provided the laboratories (partners) participating in Neurocypres  with a grant close to 12 Million euro to achieve this goal in the period 2008-2012.

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