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Smooth Muscle Research Centre

Research within the Health Theme is primarily led by the Smooth Muscle Research Centre (SMRC) and their commercial arm, the Ion Channel Biotechnology Centre (ICBC).

The Smooth Muscle Research Centre (SMRC) represents the largest group of researchers investigating the control of smooth muscle function in Ireland and the UK. The focus of the research is on ion channels, and includes expertise in electrophysiology, imaging technology and studies investigating the mechanisms of excitation-contraction coupling in smooth muscle. Of particular interest is the role of calcium in smooth muscle function, and the influence that ion channels have in controlling mechanisms of contraction in healthy and diseased tissue. The primary areas of interest are in urinary incontinence and urethral physiology, erectile dysfunction, lymphoedema, arthritis and diseases of the vascular system.

The Ion Channel Biotechnology Centre (ICBC) established in 2008 is the commercial arm of the Smooth Muscle Research Centre. ICBC is engaged with industry through the development of tools for measuring and analysing biological function in smooth muscle. These industrial collaborations include approaches to adapt imaging tools, microscopes and cameras for medical use, as evidenced by long time collaborations with companies such as Andor Technology in Belfast. More recently the Centre has initiated a program to develop drug candidates for treatment of urinary incontinence, and has established two additional capabilities in molecular biology and organic chemistry to assist in this development plan. Urinary incontinence is due in part to the spastic contraction of smooth muscle lining the bladder, the result of overactive contractile machinery and an imbalance in the opening and closing states of specific ion channels. Current therapies to treat this condition focus on the nervous control of the smooth muscle. The approach taken at the Centre is to reduce the activity of the smooth muscle directly through opening ion channels that are known to relax the smooth muscle.

If you would like to know more about the research activities of the Smooth Muscle Research Centre or the Ion Channel Biotechnology Centre please contact: Dr Mark Hollywood