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Biotechnol Bioeng. 2017 Jan;114(1):184-194. doi: 10.1002/bit.26045. Epub 2016 Jul 21.

Microfluidic blood-brain barrier model provides in vivo-like barrier properties for drug permeability screening.

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Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University, 381 Kimball Hall, Ithaca, New York, 14853-7202.


Efficient delivery of therapeutics across the neuroprotective blood-brain barrier (BBB) remains a formidable challenge for central nervous system drug development. High-fidelity in vitro models of the BBB could facilitate effective early screening of drug candidates targeting the brain. In this study, we developed a microfluidic BBB model that is capable of mimicking in vivo BBB characteristics for a prolonged period and allows for reliable in vitro drug permeability studies under recirculating perfusion. We derived brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and cocultured them with rat primary astrocytes on the two sides of a porous membrane on a pumpless microfluidic platform for up to 10 days. The microfluidic system was designed based on the blood residence time in human brain tissues, allowing for medium recirculation at physiologically relevant perfusion rates with no pumps or external tubing, meanwhile minimizing wall shear stress to test whether shear stress is required for in vivo-like barrier properties in a microfluidic BBB model. This BBB-on-a-chip model achieved significant barrier integrity as evident by continuous tight junction formation and in vivo-like values of trans-endothelial electrical resistance (TEER). The TEER levels peaked above 4000 Ω · cm2 on day 3 on chip and were sustained above 2000 Ω · cm2 up to 10 days, which are the highest sustained TEER values reported in a microfluidic model. We evaluated the capacity of our microfluidic BBB model to be used for drug permeability studies using large molecules (FITC-dextrans) and model drugs (caffeine, cimetidine, and doxorubicin). Our analyses demonstrated that the permeability coefficients measured using our model were comparable to in vivo values. Our BBB-on-a-chip model closely mimics physiological BBB barrier functions and will be a valuable tool for screening of drug candidates. The residence time-based design of a microfluidic platform will enable integration with other organ modules to simulate multi-organ interactions on drug response. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2017;114: 184-194.


TEER; blood-brain barrier; human iPS cells; organ on a chip; permeability

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