But the barrier can be disrupted by disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis, for example, and also is a big challenge for medicine, as it can be difficult or impossible to get therapeutic molecules through the barrier to treat neurological disorders.
Now, however, the blood-brain barrier may be poised to give up some of its secrets as researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have created in the laboratory dish the cells that make up the brain's protective barrier. Writing in the June 24, 2012 edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology, the Wisconsin researchers describe transforming stem cells into endothelial cells with blood-brain barrier qualities.
Access to the specialized cells "has the potential to streamline drug discovery for neurological disease," says Eric Shusta, a UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering and one of the senior authors of the new study. "You can look at tens of thousands of drug candidates and just ask the question if they have a chance to get into the brain. There is broad interest from the pharmaceutical industry."
The blood-brain barrier depends on the unique qualities of endothelial cells, the cells that make up the lining of blood vessels. In many parts of the body, the endothelial cells that line capillaries are spaced so that substances can pass through. But in the capillaries that lead to the brain, the endothelial cells nestle in tight formation, creating a semi-permeable barrier that allows some substances -- essential nutrients and metabolites -- access to the brain while keeping others -- pathogens and harmful chemicals -- locked out.
The cells described in the new Wisconsin study, which was led by Ethan S. Lippmann, now a postdoctoral fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and Samira M. Azarin, now a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, exhibit both the active and passive regulatory qualities of those cells that make up the capillaries of the intact brain.
The research team coaxed both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells to form the endothelial cells of the blood-brain barrier. The use of induced cells, which can come from patients with specific neurological conditions, may be especially important for modeling disorders that compromise the blood-brain barrier. What's more, because the cells can be mass produced, they could be used to devise high-throughput screens for molecules that may have therapeutic value for neurological conditions or to identify existing drugs that may have neurotoxic qualities.
"The nice thing about deriving endothelial cells from induced pluripotent stem cells is that you can make disease-specific models of brain tissue that incorporate the blood-brain barrier," explains Sean Palecek, a UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering and a senior author of the new report. "The cells you create will carry the genetic information of the condition you want to study."
The generation of the specialized blood-brain barrier endothelial cells, the Wisconsin researchers note, has never been done with stem cells. In addition to the potential applications to screen drugs and model pathologies of the blood-brain barrier, they may also provide a novel window for developmental biologists who are interested in how the barrier comes together and co-develops with the brain.
"Neurons develop at the same time as the endothelial cells," Shusta says, noting that, in development, the cells secrete chemical cues that help determine organ specificity.
"We don't know what all those factors are," Lippmann says. "But with this model, we can go back and look." Identifying all of the molecular factors at play as blank slate stem cells differentiate to become specialized endothelial cells could one day have clinical significance to treat stroke or tamp down the ability of brain tumors to recruit blood vessels needed to sustain cancer.The new study was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Terry Devitt | EurekAlert!
Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)
CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy