OU researchers are part of a €9 million, EU-funded innovative medicines initiative, involving 24 different institutions, to develop a blood-brain barrier model for drug research.
David Male, Professor of Biology in the OU’s Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is the OU lead for the project, which is developing a three-dimensional tissue culture system that will function in the same way as the blood-brain barrier – the interface between blood and brain.
“This barrier, formed by cells of the vasculature and the central nervous system, prevents more than 95% of potentially useful therapeutic drugs from entering the brain”, Professor Male explained. “It is the major obstacle for development of treatments for multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases and brain tumours. The pharmaceutical industry needs in vitro models (studies of biological properties that are done in tissue culture rather than in a human or animal) of the human blood barrier to develop treatments before they can be tested in vivo trials (tested on whole, living organisms or cells) and then moved to clinical trials.”
Over the three years of the project, Professor Male and his OU colleagues will be using human stem-cell derived endothelium (cells that line the brain capillaries), nerve cells and supporting cells to model the human blood-brain barrier. Other members of the consortium are developing molecules that selectively target the brain endothelium and carriers that can transport drugs across the barrier.