SOFT award for PhD student

A Bournemouth University PhD student has received a prestigious award for her work investigating an individual’s susceptibility to methadone poisoning.

BU PhD student Hannah Bunten has received $2000 to share her research into methadone susceptibility at the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) conference in Richmond, Virginia.

Methadone is commonly used to treat heroin addiction but methadone related deaths have increased in the UK and USA in recent years.

Hannah has been working for the last three years to investigate whether gene variations can affect how different people respond to this drug.

During post mortem tests Hannah found significantly higher concentrations of methadone in subjects with a particular variation of the metabolism gene CYP2B6. This combination slows down the rate at which the drug is eliminated from the body, leading to accumulation and toxicity.

Hannah said: “I was chosen for the SOFT research award because of these findings. The results from the study are the first to find this association between methadone and CYP2B6 and OPRM1 and will hopefully advance the use of pharmacogenomics in cases of drug-related deaths.”

The direct result of Hannah’s study is that genetic screening could be used to detect methadone susceptibility prior to treatment.

The SOFT conference takes place between 18 and 22 October 2010 and will be attended by over 800 forensic toxicologists from around the world.

The conference will feature sessions on pharmacogenomics, drug driving, drug extraction, analysis methods and more.