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Dr Pedro Moura Alves secures funding to screen for drugs that regulate aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) activity.

The AHR is an important cellular sensor that recognises a large number of molecules to enable the cell to respond appropriately to different environmental triggers. Recent research has revealed the AHR’s involvement in the pathology of several diseases, including cancer, infectious diseases and neurological disorders. There is now a great interest in trying to identify drugs that can modulate AHR activity and potentially be repurposed for treatment of these diseases.

Ludwig Oxford’s Dr Pedro Moura Alves has been awarded money from the University of Oxford’s John Fell Fund to carry out a systematic screen for AHR regulators. In collaboration with Dr Daniel Ebner’s High Throughput Screening Facility (Target Discovery Institute), Pedro will use several AHR reporter cell lines and libraries of existing drugs to identify molecules that regulate AHR activity. These hits will undergo further validation, including work in zebrafish larvae which are a good model for assessing responses to molecules in the context of a whole organism. It is hoped that this work will reveal both novel therapeutic strategies for AHR-linked diseases and new information about the regulation of AHR that will guide future research.