To those untrained in neuroscience’s inner workings, the blood-brain barrier is not a well-known feature of the brain’s anatomy. To Brigham and Women’s Hospital researcher Choi-Fong Cho, PhD, however, it is the center around which her laboratory revolves. Dr. Cho’s model for overcoming the blood-brain barrier is one example of how Partners HealthCare investigators are partnering with industry to help change treatment paradigms for patients.

For decades, the blood-brain barrier has been the nemesis of neurological drug development. Designed to block foreign invaders from penetrating the brain and central nervous system, it doesn’t distinguish when friendly substances—such as promising treatments for Alzheimer’s, glioblastoma, and other neurological conditions—seek access. Dr. Cho and her team want to change that, giving researchers at medical centers and drug companies a “fast track” to identify those drugs that can beat the blood-brain barrier and benefit patients. “We want to change the way people look at drug development in neuroscience,” says Dr. Cho.

To achieve this unprecedented feat, Dr. Cho created organoids—tiny, balled-up versions of the blood-brain barrier—and uses microscopic techniques to determine which compounds can penetrate them in significant amounts. Since publishing a paper about the spheroids in Nature Communications last year, Dr. Cho and her team have generated significant interest among drug makers and academic researchers who want to work with the model to screen potential treatments—and bring hope to patients with neurological disease.

Read more about Dr. Cho’s research here.

Topics: Technology, Innovation, Academic Medical Centers

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