About the Pharmacology Zone

Strychnos Toxifera, the plant from which the toxin, Curare, is extracted. Curare was the first drug to be scientifically investigated. | Image: Wikimedia

A drug is any kind of substance that has an effect on a living organism. Pharmacology is the scientific study of how these substances work in the body. One of the earliest substances to be investigated was curare, a toxin produced from rainforest plants in South America and used by local tribes to paralyse wild animals. In 1842, Claude Bernard showed that the poison blocks the signals between the nerves and muscles.

Since then pharmacology has had a huge impact on the world. For example, it is estimated that 200 million lives have been saved by the antibiotic drug, Penicillin, alone. If you’re under anaesthetic, using an inhaler, having a drink, or taking an aspirin, pharmacology is researching what’s happening in your body.

Pharmacologists can research how drugs work in many different ways: they can study what drugs do to specific parts of the body like the brain, they can investigate the effects of different drug doses, they can find out how drugs are interacting with the molecules of your cells, and they can look at toxic substances, like curare, to work out how to combat their effects.

In this zone there is a scientist who studies how drugs are broken down and removed by the body and a scientist who teaches doctors and pharmacists about how drugs work. There is also a scientist who looks for new ways to test how well drugs work, another who is researching whether the worn-down cartilage between your bones can be made to grow again, and another who is finding out what light does to the molecules in your skin.

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