• Natasha O'Brown
  • Natasha O'Brown
  • Assistant Professor
  • Department: Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience
  • Program(s): Cell and Developmental Biology Graduate Program
  • Major Research Interest(s): Molecular Genetics, Neurobiology
  • Research Organisims: Zebrafish
  • Rotating Faculty
  • Nelson Biological Laboratories
  • 604 Allison Road, Room B325
  • Piscataway, NJ 08854
  • Key Words: Blood-brain barrier, zebrafish imaging and genetics, neural development
  • Lab Site URL

We investigate molecular and cellular regulators of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which is the name for the uniquely restrictive properties of cerebral blood vessels that act to maintain ion and nutrient homeostasis and help protect the brain from invading toxins and pathogens. And while in normal life, this is a good thing, the BBB also acts as a huge obstacle for effective drug delivery in diseased states, such as brain tumors. Furthermore, BBB breakdown has been implicated in the pathology of many neurodegenerative diseases (NDs), including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and stroke. Therefore, we’d like to find new ways to both increase barrier permeability for better therapeutic access to the brain and shut down BBB leakage in ND to prevent further damage. We will do this primarily using the zebrafish model system, live imaging, transplantation and other cellular perturbations, classic genetics and small molecule screens with behavioral readouts. We do this with a child-like curiosity, creativity, and a sense of humor as we work together towards achieving these goals.