Dr. Edson Xavier de Albuquerque, born in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, earned his M.D. degree from the Sch.Med., Fed. Univ. of Pernambuco in 1959, and earned his Ph.D. degree summa cum laude in Physiol. Pharmacol. from the Dept. of Biochem., Biophys. & Pharmacol. at the "Escola Paulista de Medicina" in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1962. Postdoctoral studies followed at Tulane University, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, at the Univ. Illinois under the guidance of Prof. Klaus Unna, and at the Univ. Lund (Sweden) with Dr. Stephen Thesleff, at the Karolinska Inst. in Stockholm with Dr. David Ottoson, and at the Dept. of Anatomy at Umea with Dr. Ebba Cedergren.
In 1968, he was offered an Honor Position as a Buswell Fellow at the Univ. Buffalo to join the active group of Sir John Eccles, Prof. Eric Barnard and Prof. David Triggle. He established his own laboratory, developed a number of fundamental studies in the field of neuromuscular transmission, and discovered the properties of many toxins which are used as tools for the characterization of the function of nicotinic receptors in the neuromuscular junction. He was promoted rapidly, receiving by 1972 the position of Prof., and by 1973, Prof. Acting Chair of Pharmacology.
In 1974, Dr. Albuquerque accepted the post of Professor & Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore. There he established his laboratory for electrophysiological studies of synaptic transmission and developed the department, which grew from an anonymous department of cell biology to one internationally recognized for its excellence and bringing in a very high level of research funding.
Dr. Albuquerque has received international recognition for his electrophysiological research on neurotransmitter receptors in the central and peripheral nervous systems, including the the Order of the Grand Cross and the Rio Branco Award from Brazil, and in the United States, from the NIH the prestigious Jacob Javits Award Neuroscience Research Award and the Otto Krayer Award from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
Nicotinic and glutamatergic synapses in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS) are known to be involved in cognition, learning, and memory, as well as several pathological conditions, e.g. Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy. Nicotinic receptors are known to play a key role in the control of neuronal function in the hippocampus and many other brain areas. Studies carried out in our laboratory have been directed at characterizing the diversity, ontogenesis, function, and pharmacological properties of nicotinic receptors in the CNS. Toward these aims we have applied different modalities of the patch-clamp technique to hippocampal neurons, in cultures, in brain slices or acutely dissociated, and to cell lines expressing different receptor subtypes.
Studies of the effects of different toxicants, including the heavy metal lead and of organophosphorus compounds, including nerve agents and insecticides, on neuronal functions in vitro and in vivo are also an important part of our ongoing research
Studies of neuronal nicotinic receptors have been rather complex. Based on the analysis of nicotinic whole-cell currents evoked in hippocampal neurons, we have learned that at least three types of nicotinic receptors can be expressed in these neurons: (i) alpha-BGT-sensitive nAChRs, which may bear the alpha7 nAChR subunit; (ii) mecamylamine-sensitive nAChRs, which may be composed of the nAChR-subunit combination alpha3beta2; and (iii) dihydro-beta-erythroidine sensitive nAChRs, which may be made up of the nAChR-subunit combination alpha4beta2. We have demonstrated that the most predominant subtype of neuronal nAChR expressed in hippocampal neurons is highly sensitive to alpha-bungarotoxin, has low affinity for ACh, and desensitizes extremely rapidly. So far, using a system of fast drug delivery that had to be developed to analyze properly the fast kinetic properties of this receptor, we have obtained evidence suggesting that this receptor type may be involved in processes in which a sharp increase in the intracellular concentrations of calcium plays a key role.
We have provided evidence for the existence of endogenous modulators of nicotinic receptor activity in different areas of the brain. Our research has also laid the groundwork for the development of a new class of drugs for treatment of Alzheimer's disease - the so-called "nicotinic allosteric potentiating ligands, of which galantamine is the prototype.
Research in the laboratory continues to have a largely translational component to aid in the development of potential treatments for neuropathological conditions that afflict millions worldwide.
Lab Techniques and Equipment:
Electrophysiological recording (whole cell and single channel patch clamp) from hippocampal neurons (in cultures, in slices or acutely dissociated); infrared-assisted videomicroscopy coupled with computerized micromanipulators; organotypic cultures of hippocampal slices and septum-hippocampal co-cultures.