Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Natasha M. O'Brown, PhD

Dr. O'Brown is investigating the molecular mechanisms that govern the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which acts as the gatekeeper for the brain. While the BBB protects the brain from pathogens and provides the necessary environment for normal brain function, the BBB also acts as an obstacle to drug delivery for the treatment of neurological diseases, including brain tumors. A key regulator of BBB integrity, Mfsd2a, limits transcellular movement across the barrier and therefore prevents leakage into the brain. Using a combination of zebrafish genetics, small molecule screens, and live imaging, she aims to understand how this protein regulates these BBB processes. By investigating the cellular signals that induce or remove barrier properties, she hopes to identify ways by which she can selectively manipulate the barrier to allow for drug delivery to the brain.

Project title: "Molecular and cellular mechanisms of transcytosis regulation in blood-brain barrier function"
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Award Program: Dale Frey Scientist, Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Sean G. Megason, PhD, and Chenghua Gu, PhD
Cancer Type: Brain
Research Area: Developmental Biology