Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary: Researchers have developed a well defined step-by-step process which can turn multipurpose stem cells into the cells that make the Blood-Brain Barrier.
The blood-brain barrier is a highly selective permeable membrane which acts as brain’s gatekeeper. A nearly impenetrable barrier, keeps away the toxins and other agents, circulating in the blood from gaining access to the brain. This barrier is the brain’s first and most complete line of defense. The barrier may protect the brain but also blocks many small-molecule drugs which are used in effective therapies for a host of neurological conditions such as stroke, trauma and cancer. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a well defined step-by-step process which can turn multipurpose stem cells into the cells that make the blood-brain barrier in the laboratory dish. The findings were published in the journal Science Advances.
Directing the stem cells to become any of the hundreds of cell types which make up the human body is often as much art as science. Researchers defined an easy, chemically defined method where human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are differentiated into brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs) via small-molecule activation of key signaling pathways. This new method will allow the industry to scale up the production of brain’s endothelial cells and explore for drug discovery. The scientists might also circumvent the barrier for therapeutic purposes.
Prof. Sean Palecek said, “The main advance is we now have a fully defined process that uses small molecules to guide cells through the developmental process,” and further added “It standardizes the approach. It can be applied to a broader portfolio of cells. We can really investigate disease.”
More Information: Tongcheng Qian et al, “Directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to blood-brain barrier endothelial cells”, Science Advances (2017). advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/11/e1701679