The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a vital protective barrier that separates the circulating blood from the central nervous system, safeguarding the brain’s delicate environment. Understanding the complex interactions between different cell types within the BBB is crucial for advancing our knowledge of neurological disorders and developing effective treatments. In vitro co-culture models of the BBB and assay development have emerged as powerful tools, offering a more physiologically relevant environment to study the intricate workings of this essential barrier. Visikol’s approach in developing BBB assays to study BBB permeability, transport mechanisms, and drug delivery across this formidable barrier has been unique.
The Visikol BBB co-culture model involves the simultaneous culture of brain endothelial cells, the primary component of the BBB, with other supporting cells, such as astrocytes or pericytes. These models provide an opportunity to investigate the impact of cell-cell interactions on BBB integrity and function. Astrocytes, known as the “caretakers” of the brain, play a critical role in the development and maintenance of the BBB. Co-culturing brain endothelial cells with astrocytes enhances barrier properties, such as tight junction formation and transporter expression, creating a more faithful representation of the BBB in vitro. Pericytes, another important cell type found in brain capillaries, contribute to BBB stability, and can be incorporated into co-culture models to study their influence on barrier function.
Unraveling BBB Permeability
In vitro BBB assays involve the replication of the BBB in a controlled laboratory environment, allowing researchers to investigate the permeability of molecules across the barrier. These assays typically use brain endothelial cells cultured on porous inserts to mimic the BBB endothelium. By exposing these cell monolayers to various compounds, researchers can measure the ability of substances to cross the barrier and gain insight into BBB permeability characteristics. This information is vital in understanding how different molecules, including drugs, nutrients, and toxins, interact with the BBB and affect brain health. In addition to permeability studies, in vitro BBB assays enable the investigation of specific transport mechanisms involved in the movement of molecules across the barrier. The BBB actively regulates the passage of nutrients, ions, and signaling molecules into the brain while preventing the entry of harmful substances. In vitro assays allow researchers to study and quantify the activity of specific transporters, such as efflux pumps and carrier proteins, that play a crucial role in maintaining BBB integrity and function. Understanding these transport mechanisms is essential for optimizing drug delivery to the brain and developing strategies to overcome the limitations posed by the BBB. Visikol has successfully developed this BBB assay for small molecules and antibody proteins to pass/or not pass through the barrier and then quantitatively measure the permeability of the small molecules across the barrier.
Figure 1. Brain Microvascular Endothelial Cells (Blue) are cultured on the top of the transwell and Pericytes and Astrocytes are cultured (Orange and Green) on the bottom of the transwell to form a barrier that mimics an in vivo model.
Applications of BBB assay
Visikol’s in vitro BBB model helps in accelerating the drug discovery and development. Assessing the ability of potential drug candidates to cross the BBB is crucial for designing effective therapies for neurological disorders. In vitro assays provide a screening platform to evaluate the permeability and transport of drug molecules across the BBB. The Visikol BBB model has been physiologically relevant cell models and mimic the dynamic conditions of the BBB and help in predicting drug penetration and assessing the potential efficacy of drug candidates. This information guides the development of targeted drug delivery strategies that can effectively reach the brain and improve treatment outcomes. In vitro BBB assays are invaluable tools in advancing the understanding of neurological diseases.
In vitro BBB assays have revolutionized the field of neuroscience by providing researchers with a controlled platform to study BBB permeability, transport mechanisms, and drug delivery to the brain. With ongoing advancements in technology and methodologies, in vitro BBB assays will continue to play a crucial role in decoding the brain’s fortress, fostering breakthroughs in neuroscience research, and improving the lives of those affected by neurological diseases.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Blood Brain Barrier Assay, please reach out to a member of our team today!