Replicating the Blood-Brain Barrier on a Chip
22 January 2018
Heidelberg researchers obtain grant from Baden-Württemberg Foundation
A new research project at Heidelberg University aims to replicate the blood-brain barrier as a model on a chip, thereby enabling the transport of drugs into the brain. A research team under Prof. Dr Gert Fricker from the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology (IPMB) is collaborating with researchers from the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute at the University of Tübingen. The project has been awarded approximately 500,000 euros from the Baden-Württemberg Foundation for a period of three years.
The blood-brain barrier separates the central nervous system from circulating blood and protects the brain from pathogens. "But this barrier also prevents specific drugs, like those for treating neurological illnesses, from penetrating the brain," states Prof. Fricker. The goal of the IPMB project is to replicate this normally impenetrable barrier on a chip in order to recreate certain pathological states. This will allow the researchers to test the transport of drugs into the brain and adapt it accordingly.
The chip will contain electrical, electrochemical and optical sensors that can continuously measure the flow of substances. These sensors should provide information on whether the barrier remains intact. Because the human organism can be simulated using this so-called "organ-on-chip model", the researchers hope to be able to reduce the number of future animal experiments.
The project, funded by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation, is entitled "Microphysiological in vitro-Model of Blood-Brain Barrier with Integrated Microsensors as Close in vivo-Disease Model for Active Ingredient Testing".