As the world's population is aging, diseases of the central nervous system (CNS) become an increasing threat for global health. The total annual cost resulting from CNS diseases is quickly escalating. While considered a public health priority by the World Health Organization, the development of drugs against these diseases fails to succeed. CNS drugs have one of the highest failure rates and longest development times. One reason for this poor success is that CNS drugs have to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) before reaching the neural tissue. Many promising substances with proven effects in in vitro models fail in human because they cannot cross the BBB or are denatured by the crossing. This complexity is worsened by the fact that there is currently no in vitro system to test simultaneously whether a substance can cross the human BBB and adequately affect the adjacent human neural tissue.
The project MEAZURE addresses this problem. We will develop a device allowing the tissue engineering of an artificial human neurovascular unit (NVU), i.e. an in vitro model comprising both the neural tissue and the BBB. This device will allow the simultaneous monitoring of the two components of the model and their pharmacological testing. This innovative solution aims at increasing the success rate of CNS drug development by facilitating and speeding up the drug discovery process and to screen potential neurotoxic molecules present in our environment.
MEAZURE is a collaborative effort of 5 groups of the HES-SO. The main deliverable is a device combining a system to record simultaneously neuronal activity with a system to measure the blood-brain barrier permeability. A Micro-Electrode Array (MEA) unit will allow the electrophysiological recording of neural cultures sitting at the bottom of a standard 24-well plate and a Trans Endothelial Electrical Resistance (TEER) unit allowing the recording of the electrical impedance of a cultured BBB positioned just above. Both systems will be developed and assembled using the HES-SO competences and correspond to adaptations and improvements of home-made technologies. We have maximized innovation to deliver a fully operational and efficient product. The device will be a unique stand-alone system able to work autonomously in an incubator, data being transmitted wirelessly or stored locally within the device. The device is also versatile and amenable for MEA recording, TEER recording or both. Finally it has medium-throughput capacities, it is compatible with industrial use and it will be proposed at international level for R&D or commercial use.