MIT researchers have created a tissue model that allows them model drug delivery to brain tumors. Tumor cells (green) are surrounded by endothelial cells (purple). (Credits: Image by Cynthia Hajal and Roger D. Kamm (MIT), edited by Chris Straehla)

A team of researchers is now developing drug-carrying nanoparticles that appear to get into the brain more efficiently than drugs given on their own. Using a human tissue model they designed, which accurately replicates the blood-brain barrier, the researchers showed that the particles could get into tumors and kill glioblastoma cells.

To mimic that structure in a tissue model, the researchers grew patient-derived glioblastoma cells in a microfluidic device. Then, they used human endothelial cells to grow blood vessels in tiny tubes surrounding the sphere of tumor cells. The model also includes pericytes and astrocytes, two cell types that are involved in transporting molecules across the blood-brain barrier.

The researchers showed that coated nanoparticles carrying cisplatin could slow down tumor growth in mice, but the effect wasn’t as strong as Source what they saw in the tissue model. This might be because the tumors were in a more advanced stage, the researchers say. They now hope to test other drugs, carried by a variety of nanoparticles, to see which might have the greatest effect. They also plan to use their approach to model other types of brain tumors.