Monday, 27 February 2023 14:23

Zurich: Promising new blood-brain barrier model Featured

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, led by Professor Andreas Hierlemann, have developed a microfluidic 3D blood-brain barrier model that can be used to better investigate, for example, therapies against brain tumors.

The BBB model includes human cerebral endothelial cells as well as primary pericytes and astrocytes in a 3D arrangement within a pump-free, open microfluidic platform. The flow conditions mimicking the body will be set in motion with a kind of seesaw to avoid stressing the cells. A comparison with conventional models revealed that the new model exhibits a denser barrier layer. The permeability and morphological changes of the blood-brain barrier can be studied with high-resolution time-lapse microscopy. Electrical resistance is measured by transparent electrodes attached to cover glasses on either side of the barrier.

As a first test, the scientists exposed the barrier model to oxygen-sugar deprivation, as occurs during a stroke. They were able to show that the electrical resistance of the barrier breaks down even before it undergoes morphological changes and thus becomes more permeable. Live high-resolution imaging showed the formation of large actin stress fiber bundles in the endothelial layer, ultimately leading to cell shrinkage and barrier rupture.

Original publication:
Wei W, Cardes F, Hierlemann A, Modena MM: 3D In Vitro Blood-Brain Barrier Model for Investigating Barrier Insults. Advanced Science, February 13, 2023, doi: 10.1002/advs.202205752