An artificial device reproducing a 1:1 scale model of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) was fabricated by a research team at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia. BBB is the anatomical and functional structure that protects the central nervous system from external substances, such as contaminants, but also drugs when they are injected intravenously into the body. The device, which is a combination of artificial and biological components, will be fundamental for studying new therapeutic strategies to overcome blood-brain barrier and treat brain diseases, such as tumors.
The study was coordinated by Gianni Ciofani, researcher at IIT in Pontedera (Pisa) and Professor at Politecnico di Torino, in the framework of the research project SLaMM funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and aiming at developing new nanotechnologies for the treatment of brain diseases.
The device is described in a paper published by the scientific journal Small and highlighted by the journal inside cover: it is a microfluidic device that combines artificial components made with 3-D advanced microfabrication techniques (two-photon lithography) and biological ones, that is endothelial cells (the cells covering blood vessels).
The prototype has been developed owing to an extremely multidisciplinary approach that was based on micro- nanofabrication competencies, modeling and microfluidodynamics.
In the future researchers will use the device to understand the interaction of drugs or of drug delivery nano-vectors to overcome the blood-brain barrier and target the central nervous system. The main goal is to find new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of brain cancer and brain diseases, such as Alzheimer and multiple sclerosis.