Microbrain-On-A-Chip Device to Improve Drug Development & Testing

The brain is a particularly difficult target for drug development because it is surrounded by barriers that protect it from molecular or cellular intruders. Vanderbilt University researchers are making progress on a multi-million dollar research project to develop a 'microbrain on a chip.' The researchers' microbrain bioreactor concept has an upper chamber containing neurons and an artificial capillary that carries blood to the brain surrounded by the cells that make up the blood-brain barrier. The lower layer is filled with cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and contains an artificial choroid plexus that makes CSF and a venule that carries blood away from the brain, along with a collection of cells that form the blood-CSF and CSF-brain barriers. Collectively, all these cells will reproduce the microenvironment found in the brain and the entire device will be about the size of a grain of rice. The researchers say the device will allow them to test the effectiveness of various drug and nutritional therapies designed to prevent both acute injuries like strokes and chronic diseases like obesity and epilepsy, as well as uncovering the potential adverse effects of experimental drugs.