Reporter 427, 16 November 1998

Protein team proves value of co-operation

A collaborative group of University physiologists, biochemists and medics are getting together to help calm racing hearts.

And they have just received one of the first new co-operative grants from the Medical Research Council, which now exclusively allocates funds to groups willing to work together in the interests of productivity and efficiency.

The research team, headed by Professor John Findlay and Dr David Beech, is studying channel proteins, which control the amount of chemicals entering and leaving cells in the body.

This process is a delicate balance and can be disturbed as the body ages, or through genetic faults in the proteins. The team is investigating how the individual proteins function, which could help in developing drugs to treat the disorders caused by their failure, such as abnormal heart rhythms in elderly people. These include a childhood condition in which the pancreas produces too much insulin, caused by the failure of the protein which controls potassium.

The £530,000 award is the University’s first MRC co-operative grant and reflects the strength and reputation of the team in this area, who are enjoying the spirit of co-operation.

“Research in the UK has tended to be more insular than elsewhere and the MRC is attempting to change that culture,” said Dr Beech. “But we’re quite happy to work together, in fact it’s one of the main strengths of our group.”

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