The major research goals of the Hansen lab are to enhance the synthetic pharmacology of ionotropic glutamate receptors, which are involved in a multitude of disorders in the central nervous system, and improve our knowledge of their physiological roles in normal brain function and in neuropathological conditions. Our research includes structural and mechanistic questions in neurophysiology and neuropharmacology as well as efforts to identify and validate novel strategies and new glutamate receptor targets that can be exploited for therapeutic intervention.
NMDA-type glutamate receptors are ligand-gated ion channels that mediate excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system, but are also implicated in many neurological and psychiatric disorders. The molecular pharmacology and structure-function relationship of NMDA receptors is an important focus of our research, and we have identified new ligands from assay development to compound screening and characterizated of novel modulators and their mechanisms of action. This effort has led to the discovery of multiple novel classes of small-molecule modulators of NMDA receptor function and new modulatory ligand binding sites. These newly discovered modulatory sites can be exploited for the development of subunit-selective pharmacological tools and create new avenues for drug discovery.