The Structural Basis of Neurosteroid Binding to the GABA(A) Receptor
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
Since receiving the IARS Mentored Research Award in 2017 for his study on “The Structural Basis of Neurosteroid Binding to the GABA(A) Receptor,” Wayland Cheng, MD, PhD, has made major strides both in his career trajectory as well as with his research on ion channel structure and function. In 2021, he was recognized by IARS again with the IARS Frontiers in Anesthesia Award for his work on “Structural Pharmacology of the Nociceptive Ion Channel TRPM3.” Dr. Cheng has also received a K08 and other independent funding since then. In July 2023, he was promoted to Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Washington University in St. Louis. The support of the IMRA paved the way for many of these opportunities. Below he shares more about receiving the IMRA, his research, and his hopes for the future of anesthesia research.
1. What is your current position? How long have you been in this position? What was your role when you were first funded by IARS?
I am an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and was just promoted in July 2023. When I was funded by the IARS, I was an instructor.
2. What drew you to academic anesthesiology and to your particular area of research? Has your research subject area evolved since the award?
Prior to choosing anesthesiology as a clinical specialty, I had research training in basic science – ion channel structure and function. These ion channels are the targets of all anesthetic drugs, so academic anesthesiology provided the perfect specialty for my scientific interests. My research area has not changed significantly since the award.
3. What was the goal of your initial research project? Was it met?
The goal was to characterize neurosteroid binding sites in the GABA(A) receptor. Yes, this goal was met.
4. How did your findings impact patient care and the field of anesthesiology?
The research provided fundamental information and did not directly impact patient care. However, neurosteroids were recently approved as a treatment for postpartum depression and are promising compounds for the development of new sedatives.
5. How did the award affect your research/professional trajectory?
The award was critical to obtaining a K08 and subsequently independent funding.
6. How do you feel about having received the IARS Mentored Research Award?
It was an honor to receive this support from the Anesthesiology community.
7. What is something that someone would be surprised to learn about you?
I have lived in St. Louis for nearly 20 years, but am originally from Canada and love ice hockey.
8. What is your vision for the future of anesthesia research?
I am passionate about seeing fundamental mechanistic discoveries in biology have an impact on the development of new therapeutics. It is my hope to realize this in my own research.