According to a recent article in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) regulates the movement of molecules, cells, and ions between the brain and the blood. Tightly packed cells line the blood vessels in the brain and block pathogens, toxins and occasionally block drugs that are beneficial in the treatment of neurological diseases.
About 2A (MFSD2A)
The BBB has been a bottleneck for neurotherapeutic drug development. However, the answer may be found in MFSD2A, a membrane transport protein. It is critical for the functioning of the BBB.
Currently, MFSD2A’s normal function is to move omega-3 fatty acids to the brain. However, Columbia University scientists have found that its structure might lend itself to be redesigned to accommodate the excluded neurological drugs.
MFSD2A is in a three-dimensional form making it convenient for omega-3 to attach to the structure. The goal would be to design drugs that imitate omega-3 and thereby cross the BBB.
Co-Leaders Explain The Process
Several co-leaders who authored a study that appeared in a June 16th issue of Nature, Dr. Rosemary Cater, and Dr. Filippo Mancia, described MFSD2A as being inward-facing having both water-soluble and non-water-soluble (amphipathic) cavities. The authors used mass spectrometry and functional analyses to identify the action of MFSD2A with underlying substances. They suggest that their findings may be the basis for transforming MFSD2A into a transporter for neurological drugs across the BBB.
Millions of Photos
Working with MFSD2A at the molecular level, Dr. Cater and the team used a technology called cryo-EM. They could see details within a fraction of a billionth of a meter.
The cryo-EM analysis involves the use of an electron microscope. The molecules are layered in ice. Millions of pictures are taken from multiple angles and a 3D map is created.
Although the team is currently studying the way in which the transporter initially discovers omega-3s, Dr. Cater credits their study as supplying tremendous insight into MFSD2A and its method of delivery. The team, which includes skilled researchers from Singapore, New York, Chicago, and Arizona are looking forward to seeing where their results will lead them.