The blood brain barrier (BBB) in the human brain is a very important aspect in human physiology. The human BBB separates circulating blood from the central nervous system, thus protecting the brain from many infections and toxins. But the BBB also blocks the passage of many potentially useful drugs to the brain and it has long stymied scientists who want to learn more about this vital tissue because of the lack of realistic non-human lab models.
Even less is known about the BBB in children. There are significant structural and functional differences between the pediatric and adult BBB, but ethical considerations clearly limit research possibilities. So while it is known that the immature brain is especially vulnerable to damage from inflammation as well as from oxygen or blood deprivation and an altered BBB has been linked to cerebral palsy and to complications from traumatic brain injury in children, research to date on these questions has been hampered.
Now bio engineering researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia have come up with an experimental workaround; a synthetic pediatric blood-brain barrier on a small chip and have tested it successfully using rat brain endothelial cells (RBECs) from rat pups and human endothelial cells. They will describe it at the ASCB/IFCB meeting in Philadelphia on December 8. The model BBB on a chip is the creation of postdoctoral fellow Sudhir Deosarkar in the laboratory of Mohammad Kiani at Temple University in Philadelphia in collaboration with Barbara Krynska from the Shriners Hospitals Pediatric Research Center at Temple's School of Medicine and Balabhaskar Prabhakarpandian from CFD Research Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama.
By culturing RBECs and human endothelial cells under flow conditions, the researchers found that cell-cell junctions they formed accurately mimicked endothelial barrier formation in the brain. Says Deosarkar, "In this study, we have developed a first realistic pediatric BBB model (B3C) using RBECs from rat pups and human endothelial cells which could serve as an in vitro model system for studying BBB function in pediatric neurological diseases as well as for testing novel therapies for these diseases."