Blood-Brain Barrier Model

Blood-Brain Barrier

Blood brain barrier (BBB) models are essential for studying the transport efficacy of drugs that target the brain, and for understanding the pathological neurovascular functions in various diseases. Despite the high complexity and high cost of in vivo animal BBB models, 80% of drug candidates that cleared the animal tests failed subsequently in the clinical trials. Therefore, a highly robust, predictive and cost-effective in vitro BBB model is needed. To address this issue, microfluidic technology is utilized to create a 3D BBB model through the co-culture of human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived endothelial cells (EC), brain pericytes (PC) and astrocytes (AC). These all-human cells self-organise into a microvascular network within a fibrin gel through vasculogenesis. The BBB model not only exhibits physiologically relevant structures such as tight junction proteins, but more importantly, its permeability is comparable to in vivo values measured in rat brain. This in vitro BBB model can therefore be used to screen for brain-targeting drugs or to study the neurovascular functions.


This protocol is based on work by Campisi et al in reference (1). We thank Dr. Marco Campisi for his contribution to the preparation of this document.

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  1. 3D self-organized microvascular model of the human blood-brain barrier with endothelial cells, pericytes and astrocytes. Campisi M, Shin YJ, Osaki T, Hajal C, Chiono V, Kamm RD. Biomaterials 12 July 2018
  2. A 3D neurovascular microfluidic model consisting of neurons, astrocytes and cerebral endothelial cells as blood-brain barrier. Adriani G, Ma DL, Pavesi A, Kamm R, Goh ELK. Lab Chip, 2016. 17 (3):448-459

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