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Cell scaffold blood-brain-barrier. (Credit: A. Marino/ Smart Bio-Interfaces, IIT Pontedera)

Researchers have fabricated an artificial device reproducing a 1:1 scale model of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), the anatomical and functional structure that protects the central nervous system from external substances, such as contaminants, but also drugs when they are injected intravenously into the body. The device, which is a combination of artificial and biological components, will be fundamental for studying new therapeutic strategies to overcome blood-brain barrier and treat brain diseases, such as tumors.

The microfluidic device combines artificial components made with 3D advanced microfabrication techniques (two-photon lithography) and biological ones; that is, endothelial cells (the cells covering blood vessels).

The microprinting was realized with advanced 3D printing technologies (Nanoscribe) that make use of a laser that scans through a liquid photopolymer and solidifies the material locally and layer by layer building complex 3D objects with submicron resolution. Mimicking the brain microcapillaries, the model consists of a microfluidic system of 50 parallel cylindrical channels connected by junctions and featuring pores on the cylinder walls.

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