Aarhus researcher receives substantial grant
Morten Schallburg Nielsen from Aarhus University has just received DKK six million from the Lundbeck Foundation to conduct research into how molecules are transported from the blood and into the brain. The hope is that the research will in the long-term benefit patients with, among other things, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
We live longer and longer. The average life expectancy for men is 77.3 years, while for women it is 81.6 years. And because our lives have become longer, more and more Danes develop Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or other diseases where the brain and its functions are slowly broken down.
Morten Schallburg Nielsen is one of a team of researchers who have received a total of DKK 40 million from the Lundbeck Foundation. Over the next three years the team will conduct research into drug-transport to the brain. The development of new medicines is complicated by the dense blood-brain barrier, which only allows small molecules to pass, while the transport of large proteins takes place by means of very selective molecular mechanisms.
Transporting drugs to the brain
“My research looks into how proteins and receptors are absorbed from the surface of the cell and how they are transported around the cell’s internal structures. At the moment I am really focused on polarised cells which are used to form barriers between tissue and organs. Like the blood-brain barrier for example,” explains Morten Schallburg Nielsen.
Morten Schallburg Nielsen is part of a research network that is focusing on which receptors are expressed in the blood-brain barrier’s cells and how they behave.
“With greater insight into the transport of proteins across the blood-brain barrier we hope to find the proteins and molecules that are most effective for this transport. We will produce a nanoparticle that pairs with selected proteins or molecules, which attach the bond to the selected receptors.”
“If we can ‘cheat’ the blood-brain barrier into dragging the particle over the barrier, then we can in principle package any medication we want inside the particle. In other words, we want to create a Trojan horse that can transport new drugs into the brain,” explains Morten Schallburg Nielsen.
If the project goes to plan, the Lundbeck Foundation has an additional DKK 20 million available to the researchers.
Associate Professor Morten Schallburg Nielsen
Aarhus University, Department of Biomedicine
Direct tel: +45 8716 7794
Mobile: +45 2899 2387