Many neurological disorders have been linked to blood-brain barrier defects, including multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s syndrome, and Huntington’s disease.
The blood-brain barrier has the fundamental function of preventing all toxins and other foreign substances in the blood from penetrating into the brain tissue, causing damage. Similarly, the blood-brain barrier also blocks certain drugs administered for therapeutic purposes, preventing the patient from receiving them.
Thanks to the collaboration between Dr. Gad Vatine and Dr. Clive N. Svendsen – respectively of BGU’s Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research Center and Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles – for the first time the blood-brain barrier of a patient was duplicated. From this duplicate a blood-brain barrier chip was created using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), in order to study in greater detail the congenital neurological disorders and especially to be able to develop personalized and testable drugs thanks to the chip.
The researchers genetically manipulated the blood cells taken from a patient, bringing them back to their state of stem cell (induced pluripotent stem cells – iPSC). IPSCs have the ability to differentiate into any cell type and are used to create the cells that compose the blood-brain barrier.
These cells are placed on a microfluidic blood-brain barrier organ-chip, which contains thousands of living human cells and tissues, thus recreating the natural physiology and mechanical forces that the cells experience within the human body.
Thanks to the blood-brain barrier chip, researchers can test the effectiveness of therapeutic drugs for different neurological disorders, since the duplicated cells will present the same congenital defect as the patient from whom they were taken. In addition, this study could represent an important breakthrough for new research techniques on brain diseases.
«By combining patient-specific stem cells and organ-on-chip technology, we generated a personalized model of the human blood-brain barrier,» says Dr. Vatine. «The on-chip blood-brain barrier generated from several individuals allows the prediction of the best suited brain drug in a personalized manner. The study’s findings create dramatic new possibilities for precision medicine».