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Cell Types Used in In Vitro BBB Models

The blood-brain barrier, often referred to as the BBB, is a complex anatomical and physiological barrier that separates the circulating blood from the brain's extracellular fluid. This selective partition plays an instrumental role in preserving the brain's delicate homeostasis. It meticulously controls the passage of ions, molecules, and cells, allowing essential nutrients to reach the brain while keeping harmful substances at bay.

To comprehend the intricacies of the BBB and develop novel therapeutic interventions, scientists have turned to in vitro models. These artificial representations of the BBB enable researchers to explore its functions and vulnerabilities with remarkable precision.

Creative Biolabs shares knowledge related to one of the most intriguing aspects of the in vitro BBB model, which is the use of multiple cell types to reproduce this complex barrier.

Endothelial Cells: The Barrier Architects

At the heart of any BBB model lies the endothelial cells. These specialized cells form the innermost lining of blood vessels within the brain and spinal cord. Their unique structure, characterized by tight junctions and low pinocytosis, acts as the initial blockade, limiting the passage of molecules and pathogens.

In recent years, the use of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) has gained prominence. These versatile cells can differentiate into mature endothelial cells and contribute to the dynamic nature of the BBB model. EPCs offer a more realistic representation of the barrier's regenerative capacity.

Pericytes: The Supportive Stalwarts

Pericytes, often overlooked but of paramount importance, are perivascular cells found surrounding endothelial cells. They provide structural support and actively participate in the regulation of BBB permeability. Their role in maintaining vascular integrity and homeostasis is indispensable.

Astrocytes: Guardians of Homeostasis

Astrocytes, with their star-like morphology, are the true guardians of brain homeostasis. Nestled closely to endothelial cells, they extend their processes to envelop the blood vessels. Their multifaceted contributions include the release of signaling molecules, metabolic support, and the formation of the astrocyte endfeet, which further seal the barrier's integrity.

Microglia: The Sentinels of the CNS

In the ever-vigilant world of the central nervous system (CNS), microglia serve as sentinels. Derived from myeloid progenitors, these immune cells are strategically positioned to detect and respond to threats. Their involvement in BBB modeling offers insight into neuroinflammation and immune-mediated disorders.

Stem Cells: The Future of BBB Models

The future of in vitro BBB modeling lies in the realm of stem cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and embryonic stem cells (ESCs) hold the promise of creating patient-specific BBB models. These cells can be directed to differentiate into various BBB cell types, offering personalized insights into neurological diseases and drug responses.

Challenges and Advances

Though in vitro BBB models have revolutionized our understanding of brain biology, they are not without their challenges.

  • Maintaining the integrity of the barrier over extended periods
  • Replicating the complex cellular crosstalk
  • Recapitulating the dynamic nature of the BBB

These challenges remain ongoing endeavors.

Recent advancements in microfluidics, 3D culture systems, and the incorporation of organ-on-a-chip technologies have brought us closer to achieving more physiologically relevant BBB models. These innovations allow for real-time monitoring of barrier function and provide a platform for testing drug permeability and toxicity with unprecedented accuracy.

The utilization of diverse cell types in in vitro BBB models has proven instrumental. Each cell type brings its unique contribution, forming biological interactions that mimic the complexity of the in vivo BBB. These models are indispensable tools for neuroscience research, please contact us if you have any needs.


  1. Sivandzade, Farzane, and Luca Cucullo. "In-vitro blood–brain barrier modeling: A review of modern and fast-advancing technologies." Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism 38.10 (2018): 1667-1681.

For Research Use Only. Not For Clinical Use.