Cyto-iGluSnFR: A glutamate biosensor platform for brain diseases
The team wants to take a new breakthrough technology called Cyto-iGluSnFR (pronounced “sight-oh-eye-glue-sniffer”) and adapt it for the discovery of drugs to treat a variety of brain and eye diseases. Cyto-iGluSnFR is an engineered protein that senses the chemical glutamate, allowing scientists to see and measure the rate by which glutamate enters cells. Glutamate is a very important messenger that carries information from one neuron to another, but the levels of glutamate between them must be tightly controlled: too high and neurons die, too low and information is not communicated properly. In either case this can contribute to neurological diseases including stroke, glaucoma, and Alzheimer’s. Glutamate levels are controlled by glial cells found next to neurons, and they do this my taking up glutamate through one of two types of transporter proteins on their surface called EAATs. The EAATs are very attractive targets for the development of new drug therapies, but until now the tools available have made it difficult to make significant progress. The invention of the Cyto-iGluSnFR glutamate biosensor completely changes this bleak outlook, and with this funding we plan to adapt it to enable millions of chemicals to be screened in order to find drugs that make EAATs either more or less effective at moving glutamate into glial cells. These potential drugs can then be further tested using the very same biosensor in fruit flies and mice – important research models where neurons and glial cells function as they do in humans – in order to make sure they are safe and effective for patients. By adapting Cyto-iGluSnFR for multiple stages of drug development and testing, our team of experts will build a comprehensive platform to accelerate progress toward new therapies for brain and eye diseases.
Don van Meyel , Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre
Keith Murai, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre
Adriana Di Polo, CHUM Research Centre, University of Montréal
Tim Murphy, University of British Columbia
Partners and Donors
Ontario Brain Institute