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Gallagher, Martin J., Department of Neurology

Martin J. Gallagher, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Neurology: Epilepsy Division
615-936-0060 (office)
615-322-5979 (lab)

Understanding how mutations in genetic forms of epilepsy change nerve function.

In 1995 S.F. Berkovic and colleagues identified the first mutation in an ion channel (nicotinic acetylcholine receptor) associated with a genetic form of human epilepsy. Since then genetic linkage analysis has identified mutations in sodium, potassium, calcium, and GABA ion channels in patients with inherited seizure disorders. Dr. Gallagher’s main research interest is to deduce how these mutations affect ion channel structure and function.

Dr. Gallagher express’ human wild type and mutant ion channels in HEK cells and then use patch clamp techniques to determine the physiologic changes in the mutants as well as the effect of drugs. Neurotransmitters and drugs are applied using a rapid-step technique (sub-millisecond exchange times) to simulate how these compounds interact with the ion channels in an actual synapse. This rapid application technique accurately reproduces miniature endplate currents obtained from neurons.