Summer doesn’t slow down research at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
UNK students are working with assistant chemistry professor Allen Thomas to improve the delivery system for drugs that treat brain diseases, including cancer.
Last year, Thomas received a $399,000 National Institutes of Health award that will fund the project, titled “Identification of New LAT-1 Transporter Substrates for Drug Delivery,” until 2020.
One of the challenges of treating brain diseases is designing drugs capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, the layer of cells that protect the brain from toxic substances.
Thomas’ research group, which includes collaborators at the University of California, San Francisco, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sina and Northwestern University, is trying to exploit one of the body’s natural routes for transporting amino acids, the LAT-1 protein, to effectively deliver drugs to the brain. Undergraduate students in his lab are applying organic chemistry techniques to create non-natural amino acids that can be attached to drug molecules and transported across the blood-brain barrier.