Expediting pharmaceutical development

Led by James J.Hickman, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, biomolecular science and electrical engineering, a UCF team of researchers could help shorten the arduous pharmaceutical development process.

A team of researchers from the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center has developed the world’s first lab-monitored process to examine muscle function and its response to various treatments. The breakthrough may prove invaluable in furthering research efforts aimed at developing effective treatments for some progressive muscular diseases, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Myasthenia Gravis.

The result, according to James J. Hickman, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, biomolecular science and electrical engineering at UCF, and senior author of the work, could be a shortening of the long, arduous pharmaceutical development process.

“This technology, while exciting, is part of a larger goal aimed to better mimic conditions in the body,” Hickman says. “The pharmaceutical industry is in desperate need of highly predictive pre-clinical screening systems to streamline drug development and shorten current validation protocols, which can take a decade to implement.”

The work builds upon other breakthroughs by Hickman-led research teams. Earlier this year, his team developed a method that uses nonembryonic stem cells to explore treatment options for spinal cord injuries and diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. In 2011, his team developed a process that uses stem cells to grow neuromuscular junctions (key connectors used by the brain to control muscles) between human muscle cells and human spinal cord cells.