BMS319 - Pharmacological Techniques (10 credits)

Module Co-ordinator: Dr. M. Nassar


The unit will provide practical classes giving experience of isolated tissue responses and data analysis, interpretation and presentation. Common techniques employed by the pharmaceutical industry will be used to generate data from isolated living tissues. In problem-solving sessions and group discussions class data will be reviewed to allow conclusions to be made about the receptor populations being studied.

  • To provide an experimental background for pharmacological principles.
  • To develop laboratory skills.
  • To develop the principles of good experimental design.
  • To develop the students' ability to present their experimental data efficiently and with clarity with the aid of appropriate computer software.
  • To promote communication skills through joint experimental design and dissimilation of results.


students will be able to:

  • set-up particular tissue preparations (e.g. guinea-pig ileum, vas deferens, rat uterus) using transducers and computer software programmes to measure tension changes in smooth muscle preparations
  • Conduct experiments on in vitro preparations and present their findings in a written account
  • Design experimental protocols for investigating drug actions in invitro preparations
  • Understand which preparations are appropriate to investigate particular receptor populations.
  • Understand the experimental conditions (physiological solutions, temperature etc.) required to maintain tissues in vitro.


Introductory briefings will cover the theory of drug-receptor interactions, drug dilutions and bath concentrations. Students will then perform a practical class providing experience of using isolated tissues and the recording system.

Following further group sessions on data manipulation and analysis, more complex practical classes will examine various concepts of receptor theory and mechanisms of neurotransmission. At each stage additional group sessions will allow data analysis, the bringing together of class results that will allow discussion and conclusions that can be justified by the results.


Students will be able to:

  • demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of receptor theory and nomenclature as applied to functional experimentation
  • use of variety of isolated tissues to generate meaningful data on drug-receptor interactions and mechanisms of neurotransmission
  • manipulate raw data and convert it to a presentable form as tables and figures
  • analyse results and make justified conclusions
  • work as part of a team to address a common problem

Teaching Methods

Laboratory sessions, class discussions, problem-solving and data analysis sessions.


Practical mark 10% - Performance in each session will be judged by the instructor. Assessment criteria include quality of generated data, level of engagement with and effort made to accomplish assigned task.
Group practical 40% - full write up of the final session `Identification of an unknown drugĀ“.

Formal examination 50% - to assess the understanding of receptor pharmacology and the techniques used to investigate in vitro pharmacological principles. This written exam will take the form of data handling exercises. In addition to knowledge of drug interactions and tissue receptor profiles, students will be expected to:

  • Outline experimental protocols
  • Plot data
  • Calculate EC50 dose ratios
  • Make informed pharmacological conclusions