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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 1/2018

A perfused human blood–brain barrier on-a-chip for high-throughput assessment of barrier function and antibody transport

Fluids and Barriers of the CNS > Ausgabe 1/2018
Nienke R. Wevers, Dhanesh G. Kasi, Taylor Gray, Karlijn J. Wilschut, Benjamin Smith, Remko van Vught, Fumitaka Shimizu, Yasuteru Sano, Takashi Kanda, Graham Marsh, Sebastiaan J. Trietsch, Paul Vulto, Henriëtte L. Lanz, Birgit Obermeier
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12987-018-0108-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Henriëtte L. Lanz and Birgit Obermeier contributed equally to this work



Receptor-mediated transcytosis is one of the major routes for drug delivery of large molecules into the brain. The aim of this study was to develop a novel model of the human blood–brain barrier (BBB) in a high-throughput microfluidic device. This model can be used to assess passage of large biopharmaceuticals, such as therapeutic antibodies, across the BBB.


The model comprises human cell lines of brain endothelial cells, astrocytes, and pericytes in a two-lane or three-lane microfluidic platform that harbors 96 or 40 chips, respectively, in a 384-well plate format. In each chip, a perfused vessel of brain endothelial cells was grown against an extracellular matrix gel, which was patterned by means of surface tension techniques. Astrocytes and pericytes were added on the other side of the gel to complete the BBB on-a-chip model. Barrier function of the model was studied using fluorescent barrier integrity assays. To test antibody transcytosis, the lumen of the model’s endothelial vessel was perfused with an anti-transferrin receptor antibody or with a control antibody. The levels of antibody that penetrated to the basal compartment were quantified using a mesoscale discovery assay.


The perfused BBB on-a-chip model shows presence of adherens and tight junctions and severely limits the passage of a 20 kDa FITC-dextran dye. Penetration of the antibody targeting the human transferrin receptor (MEM-189) was markedly higher than penetration of the control antibody (apparent permeability of 2.9 × 10−5 versus 1.6 × 10−5 cm/min, respectively).


We demonstrate successful integration of a human BBB microfluidic model in a high-throughput plate-based format that can be used for drug screening purposes. This in vitro model shows sufficient barrier function to study the passage of large molecules and is sensitive to differences in antibody penetration, which could support discovery and engineering of BBB-shuttle technologies.
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