Christopher Ahern is a professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. He received his B.S. in chemistry and Ph.D. in membrane biophysics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He obtained postdoctoral training in the lab of Richard (Spike) Horn with a focus on voltage-gated sodium channel biophysics and chemical biology. He received additional training at the California Institute of Technology with Dennis Dougherty and Henry Lester on nonsense suppression approaches to genetic code expansion as it applies to ion channels.
The Ahern lab aims to advance our understanding of electrical signaling mechanisms in both nerves and muscles, with a current focus on ion channel mechanisms. The group uses electrophysiology, chemical biology and chemical genetics to study voltage-gated sodium and potassium channels.
Current projects include: 1) The study of ion channel mechanisms and pharmacology with encoded synthetic amino acid derivatives; 2) dissemination of these reagents and associated training to the broader research community through the support of a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke R24 award; 3) the application of chemical genetic strategies to control the biological activity of voltage-gated sodium channels in vivo; and 4) the development of engineered suppressor tRNAs for the purpose of repairing disease-causing nonsense codons in ion channel genes.