Micro-flow models of the blood-brain barrier and the brain reveal for the first time complex metabolic interactions between the brain's blood vessels and nerve cells. The findings are published by an international team of researchers, including from Karolinska Institutet and the Royal Institute of Technology, in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Interaction and regulation between blood vessels and nerve cells in the brain are essential to its function, but how this interaction takes place has been difficult to pin down. Classic cell-culture models of nerve cells and blood vessel cells are too simplified to show interactions, and studies on brain tissue and animals are too complicated.
In order to understand how blood vessels and surrounding brain tissue interact, the team built up a so-called "organ-on-chip"-model, which is a micro-flow model with living cells.
Using the model, the researchers were able to analyze all the smaller molecules issued by the cells and identify a previously undescribed link for how blood vessel cells metabolize glucose and how these metabolites influence the production of neurotransmitters by the neurons.
The team is now working on using these systems to obtain new insights on the brain and to build models of brain diseases.