The overall objective of this study is to develop a novel in vitro microfluidic platform to test a drug or delivery vehicle's ability to permeate the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB). In contrast to current in-vitro models, our proposed device, SIM-BBB, comprises of a microfluidic two-compartment chamber. The chamber is designed in such a way as to permit visualization-friendly evaluation of transport/permeation under appropriate microcirculatory size and flow conditions, while simultaneously simplifying device fabrication. The apical side is seeded with endothelial cells and the basolateral side supports glial cell co-cultures. The increased physiological realism substantially improves BBB characteristics including formation of tight junctions and expression of relevant transporters. The new platform offers greater throughput, increased library coverage, lower cost, rapid turnaround times and increased mechanistic knowledge benefiting drug discovery efforts. In Phase I, the first generation microfluidic SIM-BBB device was designed and fabricated using soft lithography. Brain endothelial cells were cultured in the microfluidic constructs with a perfusate of astrocyte conditioned media. Biochemical analysis showed upregulation of tight junction molecules while optical analysis showed intactness of the BBB in the microfluidic device. Finally, transporters assay was successfully demonstrated in the device. Phase II efforts will focus on optimization of the microfluidic device for enhanced physiological fidelity. Electrodes will be integrated for non-visual monitoring of the endothelial cell layers and tight junction formation via trans-endothelial electrical resistance (TEER) measurements. Finally, the developed technology will be demonstrated for diverse applications including drug penetration studies and leukocyte migration under inflammatory conditions. A multi-disciplinary partnership with expertise in engineering and biology has been assembled for successful completion of the project.

Public Health Relevance

The project seeks to develop an in vitro screening model for screening the potential of drug candidates to cross the BBB and subsequently cause therapeutic or toxic effects. By providing accurate and predictive data, the model will reduce the need for animal models and promises to both reduce late stage drug candidate failures and accelerate central nervous system (CNS) therapeutic development. The product will be commercialized to pharmaceutical firms, drug research labs and universities/non-profit centers engaged in novel neurological therapeutics research and CNS toxicity. Equally important, it is also expected to spur basic research, where it can be used to study the biological mechanisms of BBB (dys) function.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-ETTN-K (10))
Program Officer
Cole, Alison E
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Cfd Research Corporation
United States
Zip Code