AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Blood-brain Barrier on a Chip Sheds New Light on "Silent Killer"

The blood-brain barrier is a network of specialized cells that surrounds the arteries and veins within the brain. It forms a unique gateway that both provides brain cells with the nutrients they require and protects them from potentially harmful compounds. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE) headed by Gordon A. Cain University professor John Wikswo report that they have developed a microfluidic devices that overcomes the limitations of previous models of this key system and have used it to study brain inflammation, dubbed the “silent killer” because it does not cause pain but contributes to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Recent research also suggests that it may underlie a wider range of problems from impaired cognition to depression and even schizophrenia. The project is part of a $70 million “Tissue Chip for Drug Testing Program” funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Its purpose is to develop human organ-on-a-chip technology in order to assess the safety and efficacy of new drugs in faster, cheaper, more effective and more reliable fashion. C

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