Scientists create brain structure duplicate to be used in research

“We're aiming to understand each individual case, in order to meet the unique needs of each individual patient," said Dr. Gad Vatine.

June 10, 2019 21:16
1 minute read.
Scientists create brain structure duplicate to be used in research

Brain scan images courtesy of Dr. Vadim Axelrod . (photo credit: Courtesy)


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A model of the human brain that can be used to analyze and study brain disorders to potentially predict which drugs will work best for individual patients has been created by scientists at Ben-Gurion University.

The study’s findings create new possibilities for precision in medicine, which is particularly important for neurological diseases where treatments are based largely on trial and error, according to the university.

Dr. Gad Vatine of BGU’s Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research Center, and Clive Svendsen, PhD of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, co-chaired the team that conducted the study.

“We’re aiming to understand each individual case, in order to meet the unique needs of each individual patient,” said Vatine in a press release.

The study used patient-specific stem cells to create a personalized model of the human blood brain-barrier (BBB), a brain structure which acts as a “gatekeeper” for the brain.

The role of the BBB is to block toxins and foreign substances in the bloodstream from entering brain tissue and damaging it.
However, the BBB has been shown to prevent potentially therapeutic drugs from reaching the brain because it recognizes the drugs as a foreign substance.

Neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease have been linked to a defective blood-brain barrier, noted the release.

Since the study used stem cells derived from patients, the cells interacted with each other and mimicked the environment of the human body. The cells eventually formed a blood-brain barrier that acted like it does in the body, including blocking entry of certain drugs.

When cells were used from patients with neurological disorders, such as Huntington’s disease or the rare Allan-Herndon-Dudley syndrome, the study was able to identify a malfunction of the barrier that mirrored actual human bodily response.

“This approach allows the prediction of the best-suited brain drug in a personalized manner,” said Vatine, who noted that with certain neurological diseases, like epilepsy or schizophrenia, several FDA-approved drugs are available, but treatment selections are mainly based on trial and error.

This model can help researchers experiment on the brain without probing the body of the patients.

The development also provides a new way to make discoveries about brain disorders and potentially predict which drugs will work best for an individual patient, according to the release.

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