Bio-Mimicking Brain Vasculature to Investigate the Role of Heterogeneous Shear Stress in Regulating Barrier Integrity

Ami Mehta, Anal Desai, David Rudd, Ghizal Siddiqui, Cameron J. Nowell, Ziqiu Tong, Darren J. Creek, Prakriti Tayalia, Prasanna S. Gandhi, Nicolas H. Voelcker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


A continuous, sealed endothelial membrane is essential for the blood–brain barrier (BBB) to protect neurons from toxins present in systemic circulation. Endothelial cells are critical sensors of the capillary environment, where factors like fluid shear stress (FSS) and systemic signaling molecules activate intracellular pathways that either promote or disrupt the BBB. The brain vasculature exhibits complex heterogeneity across the bed, which is challenging to recapitulate in BBB microfluidic models with fixed dimensions and rectangular cross-section microchannels. Here, a Cayley-tree pattern, fabricated using lithography-less, fluid shaping technique in a modified Hele-Shaw cell is used to emulate the brain vasculature in a microfluidic chip. This geometry generates an inherent distribution of heterogeneous FSS, due to smooth variations in branch height and width. hCMEC/D3 endothelial cells cultured in the Cayley-tree designed chip generate a 3D monolayer of brain endothelium with branching hierarchy, enabling the study of the effect of heterogeneous FSS on the brain endothelium. The model is employed to study neuroinflammatory conditions by stimulating the brain endothelium with tumor necrosis factor-α under heterogeneous FSS conditions. The model has immense potential for studies involving drug transport across the BBB, which can be misrepresented in fixed dimension models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2200152
Number of pages16
JournalAdvanced Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • biomimicry
  • blood–brain barrier-on-chip
  • Cayley-tree pattern
  • Hele-Shaw cell
  • heterogeneous fluid shear stress
  • neuroinflammation

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