IBEC project to defy blood-brain barrier awarded in highly competitive call

IBEC group leader Silvia Muro has been granted funding in MINECO’s ‘Explora Ciencia’ and ‘Explora Tecnología’ 2017 call.

It’s the first competitive grant for Silvia and her group since she joined IBEC at the end of 2017, and one of only 97 research projects to be financed out of the 1594 applications submitted – a success rate of only 6%.

The project, ‘Controlling the differential transport of therapeutic cargoes into versus across the BBB (BBB2GATE)’ will aim to develop drug vehicles that can cross the blood-brain barrier using the natural routes that the body’s substances use to circumvent this obstruction.

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“Accessing the brain is key to study its function and pathology and for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, but the blood-brain barrier stands in the way,” says ICREA research professor Silvia. “When developing drug vehicles – or cargoes – most efforts have been devoted to the chemical and engineering aspects. By focusing on their biological regulation instead, we will complement previous knowledge and might be able to optimize these systems so that they can cross the barrier more efficiently.”

One example is the fact that the blood-brain barrier’s cells traffic the very same cargoes arriving from the bloodstream in two directions: into their interior and across their body – something that has been largely overlooked and whose biological regulation is largely unknown. This could be key to improving drug delivery systems so that they can pass by instead of being absorbed into the blood-brain barrier.

The ‘Explora Ciencia’ and ‘Explora Tecnología’ calls have awarded a total of €5million to projects being carried out in universities and research centers. The grants particularly promote projects which reevaluate established paradigms and seek new concepts or solutions, as well as developing groundbreaking applications in different scientific disciplines.