Microfluidics is making significant strides underpinned by technologies such as 3-D printing, paving way for novel approaches in therapeutics. Researchers at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genoa, Italy have engineered a full-scale model of blood-brain barrier (BBB), a heavily restricted barrier in central nervous system (CNS). The barrier is an anatomical structure that tightly regulates the movement of cells, molecules, and ions, between the blood stream and the CNS, apart from playing the vital role of protecting the CNS. Fabrication of an accurate model of BBB helps shedding light on new therapeutic strategies regarding brain tumors by focusing on the mechanism related to the crossing of exogenous substances through the barrier.
The nanotechnology device was engineered with the help of 3D printing using laser technology. It is made up of biological as well as artificial components, with photopolymer resins playing a key role. The details of the study are published on February 8, 2018 in the issue of journal ‘Small’.
Endothelial Cells in 3D Constructs Act as Highly Selective Barrier
The structure is constructed using advanced microfabrication techniques and consists of a microfluidic system of 50 cylindrical channels aligned parallel to each other, which closely resemble the brain micro capillaries. These channels are joined by junctions and have numerous pores—of the size of 1 μm diameter each—uniformly present on the cylinders. The complex polymer structure could be realized using two-photon lithography where endothelial cells covering the 3-D printed structure acted as the highly selective barrier resembling the functions of BBB.
Nanotechnology Device to Shed Light on Range of Brain Diseases, Including Tumors
The investigators used a range of techniques traversing multidisciplinary approaches, such as micro- nanofabrication, 3D modeling, and microfluidics dynamics, for the constructs.
The 1:1 scale model will provide a realistic in vitro model for understanding the role and functions of BBB in drug delivery, researchers opine. The system could further prove useful for understanding several brain pathologies, notably brain cancer, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.