Project Image:
Title of the project:
Perfusable micro-fluidic in vitro model of the blood-brain barrier
Project leader:
Dr. Martin Stelzle
Project funding:
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
Project management:
  • VDI/VDE Innovation+Technik GmbH
Funding reference number:

In order to enable the development of better drugs for the treatment of diseases of the central nervous system, the trans-BBbarrier project is developing a novel model of the blood-brain-barrier, which simulates the situation in the human body better than previously available models.


The development of novel drugs for the treatment of diseases of the central nerve system (CNS) such as epilepsy or Alzheimers disease is frequently hampered by insufficient uptake of drugs into the CNS. In order to reach the CNS, drugs have to undergo active transport across the blood-brain barrier. Unfortunately, for many drugs and drug candidates this barrier is non-permeable. Promising methods to enable uptake include encapsulation of drugs or conjugation to nanoparticles. However, the lack of robust and sensitive test systems resembling the in vivo situation as closely as possible severely impedes the assessment of the efficacy of these methods. In animal models it is quite difficult to detect minute amounts of drugs that may have passed the blood-brain barrier. In vitro systems, on the other hand, do not mimick the in vivo situation closely enough because cells loose typical and important properties when cultured outside their normal in vivo environment.
In order to solve this problem, the trans-BBBarrier project endeavours the construction of a novel model of the blood-brain barrier which is expected to provide and maintain improved cell function.
Using microsystems technology allows for the construction of culture systems which resemble the natural in vivo environment of cells in the human body to a degree that has been impossible with existing culture systems. In the trans-BBBarrier system, cells are arranged in a microfluidic device by means of electrical and hydrodynamic forces to form the natural tissue structure. Microchannels also serve to provide nutrients and mechanical stimuli to the cells.
It is expected that drug testing in this model will provide answers with high predictivity with respect to the human in vivo situation even long before any costly clinical trials have been initiated. Thus the trans-BBBarrier model will contribute to the development of drugs and therapies against diseases of the central nerve system.

Project partners:
  • Across Barriers GmbH, Saarbrücken
  • CAN GmbH, Hamburg
  • microfluidic ChipShop GmbH, Jena
  • Universität Heidelberg, Institut für Pharmazie und Molekulare Biotechnologie, Prof. Dr. Gert Fricker