A molecule, in particular a peptide designed out of bee’s poison, can become an important contribution to increase the efficiency of drugs treating the central nervous system. The research by Benjamí Oller Salvia consisted on the elaboration of this “vehicle” or “molecule shuttle” created out of a neurotoxin and able to cross the blood-brain barrier to bring drugs to the brain.
A cell barrier controls the flow of substances from blood to the brain; it is a strict control in order to avoid external agents and infections. This protective function, however, is also an inaccessible choice for most drugs aimed to treat brain diseases, from cancers to several minority diseases. There is a research line of IRB Barcelona dedicated to shuttle peptides to cross this barrier, in which the doctoral thesis of Dr. Oller Salvia belongs, directed by Professor Ernest Giralt from the Faculty of Chemistry of the UB and Dr. Meritzell Teixidó.
Benjamí Oller Salvia says his research, awarded with a Ramon Margalef Award by the Board of Trustees, means “the discovery of a new launch, which, unlike previous researches, is resistant to degradation of serum proteases and has the capacity of lead compounds to the brain with a remarkable selectivity”. Also, “it opens the door to the use of poison as a new source to cross the blood-brain barrier, since lots of these have other peptide/molecules resistant to proteases and which affect the central nervous system”, he says.
During his research, Dr. Oller Salvia designed the peptide MiniAp-4 minimizing apamin, a neurotoxin from bees’ poison. MiniAp-4 is less toxic and immunogenic than the initial neurotoxin, and has a bigger permeability through the blood-brain barrier. The new peptide has proved to be able to move drugs, including therapeutic proteins, and nanoparticles in vitro, in a model with human cells reproduced by the blood-barrier, and has also been tested in vivo on mice.
The findings have been registered according to their potentialities. The researcher, however, says that his findings are still far from being applied to drugs. Oller-Salvia is now in a postdoctoral stay at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC-LMB) in Cambridge, willing to continue with his contributions in the world of biomedicine.
Universitat de Barcelona