Scientists from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) have derived a structural model of a transporter that is potentially able to deliver drugs directly to the brain, bypassing the protective blood-brain barrier. In future, this could help treat neurological disorders such as glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer.
This first molecular model of the critical transporter called Mfsd2a could prove important for the development of drugs that need to be delivered directly to the brain. Currently, there are limitations to drug delivery to the brain as it is tightly protected by the blood-brain barrier - the protective barrier that separates the circulating blood from the central nervous system which can prevent the entry of certain toxins and drugs. This restricts the treatment of many brain diseases.
“Our study provides the first glimpse into what Mfsd2a looks like and how it might transport essential lipids across the blood-brain barrier,” said Ms Debra Quek, Duke-NUS MD/PhD student and first author of the study.

Currently, this information is being used by Duke-NUS researchers to design novel therapeutic agents for direct drug delivery across the blood brain barrier for the treatment of neurological diseases. This initiative by the Centre for Technology and Development (CTeD) at Duke-NUS, is one of many collaborative research efforts aimed at translating Duke-NUS’ research findings into tangible applications for patients.
Working together with Ms Quek was Professor David Silver, Deputy Director of the Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS. This study was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.