Scientists Recreate Blood-Brain Barrier Defect Outside the Body
Scientists can’t make a living copy of your brain outside your body. That’s the stuff of science fiction. But in a new study, they recreated a critical brain component, the blood-brain barrier, that functioned as it would in the individual who provided the cells to make it. Their achievement provides a new way to make discoveries about brain disorders and, potentially, predict which drugs will work best for an individual patient.
The blood-brain barrier acts as a gatekeeper by blocking toxins and other foreign substances in the bloodstream from entering brain tissue and damaging it. It also can prevent potential therapeutic drugs from reaching the brain. Neurological disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, which collectively affect millions of people, have been linked to defective blood-brain barriers that keep out biomolecules needed for healthy brain activity.
For their study, a team led by Cedars-Sinai investigators generated stem cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells, which can produce any type of cell, using an individual adult’s blood samples. They used these special cells to make neurons, blood-vessel linings and support cells that together make up the blood-brain barrier. The team then placed the various types of cells inside Organ-Chips, which recreated the body’s microenvironment with the natural physiology and mechanical forces that cells experience within the human body.
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