- Scholarship in 1987 at the University of Cambridge
Dr Chau's current and future research aims to understand how general anaesthetics exert their effects.
Whilst the mechanism of action of most drugs has been defined, that of general anaesthetics remains unknown. Indeed, general anaesthesia is probably the last great puzzle of pharmacology. Previous work by others has established that the target of most general anaesthetics is probably the γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptor in that part of the brain responsible for determining the sleep-wakefulness state. His work thus aims to determine the structure of this receptor, and define the effect of general anaesthetics on this protein.
Determining the mechanism of action of general anaesthetics will have important consequences for pharmacology and, more generally, medicine. It will allow better development of targeted general anaesthetics and potentially reduce the risk of negative side-effects.