The research team coaxed both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells to form the endothelial cells of the blood-brain barrier. The use of induced cells, which can come from patients with specific neurological conditions, may be especially important for modeling disorders that compromise the blood-brain barrier. What's more, because the cells can be mass produced, they could be used to devise high-throughput screens for molecules that may have therapeutic value for neurological conditions or to identify existing drugs that may have neurotoxic qualities.
"The nice thing about deriving endothelial cells from induced pluripotent stem cells is that you can make disease-specific models of brain tissue that incorporate the blood-brain barrier," explains Sean Palecek, a UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering and a senior author of the new report. "The cells you create will carry the genetic information of the condition you want to study."
The generation of the specialized blood-brain barrier endothelial cells, the Wisconsin researchers note, has never been done with stem cells. In addition to the potential applications to screen drugs and model pathologies of the blood-brain barrier, they may also provide a novel window for developmental biologists who are interested in how the barrier comes together and co-develops with the brain.
"Neurons develop at the same time as the endothelial cells," Shusta says, noting that, in development, the cells secrete chemical cues that help determine organ specificity.
"We don't know what all those factors are," Lippmann says. "But
|Contact: Terry Devitt|
University of Wisconsin-Madison