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Grant allows UNK professor to work toward brain disorder treatments

Grant allows UNK professor to work toward brain disorder treatments. (NTV News)

Local researchers are on the front lines of developing treatment for brain disorders.

One University of Nebraska at Kearney professor was awarded nearly $400,000 for an ongoing project aimed to do just that.

"I received a grant from the National Institute of Health to fund my research and it involves trying to get drugs into the brain," said Allen Thomas, UNK assistant professor.

Thomas is doing all the research he can to eventually find a way to treat brain disorders such as Alzheimer's or cancer in the brain.

"The real challenges for treating brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and brain cancer is that your brain is actually cut off from your circulatory system by this layer of cells that protect your brain from foreign substances and so that really makes it challenging if you're trying to get a drug up the brain," Thomas said.

This means that even if they have a drug to do the trick, it won't work because it 's blocked from getting to the brain.

"For a drug to actually get into the brain tissue it actually has to get from the blood that's flowing from all these capillaries into the brain tissue, so it has to cross this layer of cells that separate these capillaries from the rest of your brain," Thomas said.

So what Thomas and his team are trying to do now is find ways to get past the blood brain barrier.

Thomas said the best way in doing so is through proteins in your blood brain barrier whose sole purpose is to feed your brain nutrients.

"So what we're interested in is that we're going to try and do is use those transporter proteins to get blood across the blood brain barrier and get into your brain so they can actually reach a tumor for example or if you're trying to treat Alzheimer's disease, this could also be applicable to that," he said.

Thomas says he's excited his students are getting to be part of something this big.

"We have a lot of health care majors at UNK and so they just eat this up. They think this great and enjoy being in a project that involves directly in medicine," he said.

He said his students are always putting in 110 percent as they hope to make a difference, too.

"Sometimes I have a challenge of having too many students as a lot of students want to be part of this research," he said.

Thomas said the grant from the National Institute of Health will be used until 2020.

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