Up to 1 billion people—nearly one in six of the world’s population—suffer from neurological disorders. The number of people with those disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, has been steadily increasing in recent decades.
Drug discovery and development to control or reverse these diseases have been increased. However, these efforts have been slow to be translated into clinical practices and medications because of several challenges.
One significant challenge has been the lack of a cell-based model that predicts if specific chemical compounds can permeate the blood-brain barrier, which lies between the brain’s blood vessels and cells and other components that make up brain tissue. It protects the brain from harmful chemicals and diseases arising from infections while letting nutrients reach the brain.
A research team at Purdue developed a model that represents a more restrictive and accurate model of the blood-brain barrier.
Current models do not accurately depict the way the barrier acts. “We developed a model that represents a more restrictive and accurate model of the blood brain barrier,” says Purdue professor Greg Knipp. “Our model is a direct-contact, triculture model containing astrocytes, pericytes, and the brain microvessel endothelial cells set up similar to what you would find in a human brain.”
The biggest advantage of the new model is that the three cell types can make direct contact and better mimic the way they interact in the body. In the conventional models, the three cell types are separated by a filter when cultured together.
“Our model allows for a better depiction of the synergistic interactions between the three components and how they interact together and potentially with new drugs,” says Knipp.
The Purdue researchers say their model can screen compounds to determine which have the highest potential for success in clinical studies.
“We can more accurately predict how drugs and other compounds may cross the blood-brain barrier earlier in the discovery process and potentially treat brain disorders, because our model better resembles the actual setup within the body,” says Purdue researcher Kelsey Lubin.