What is Pharmacology?
The use of medicines is one of the principal ways of combating disease. Examples of important medicines are antibacterials, anti-cancer drugs, anti-migraine agents, and drugs used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and asthma, just to name a few. The rise of pharmacology during the middle years of the 20th century saw a huge rise in the number of diseases that could be tackled effectively with drug therapy. The development of new and successful drugs requires advances and insights generated by scientific research. Pharmacology is all about “finding out how drugs work”. It is concerned with the effects of drugs on living organisms and their components such as cells, membranes, organelles, enzymes and DNA.
In these web pages, we aim to demonstrate some interesting sides of pharmacology.
We discuss an experiment with the water flea (Daphnia), which we often perform in school visits and in the annual Cambridge Science Festival. This Festival is co-ordinated by the University of Cambridge and features exciting science, and is the largest free science festival in the UK, attracting up to 30,000 visitors (adults and children of all ages) during National Science and Engineering Week. The Department of Pharmacology runs an interactive demonstration, where visitors (mostly children) are able to microscopically visualise the beating heart of the water flea, and then understand the effects that various drugs have on the heart rate of the flea.