Organ-On-A-Chip in vitro Models of the Brain and the Blood-Brain Barrier and Their Value to Study the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Neurodegeneration

Ilaria Raimondi, Luca Izzo, Marta Tunesi, Manola Comar, Diego Albani, Carmen Giordano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We are accumulating evidence that intestinal microflora, collectively named gut microbiota, can alter brain pathophysiology, but researchers have just begun to discover the mechanisms of this bidirectional connection (often referred to as microbiota-gut-brain axis, MGBA). The most noticeable hypothesis for a pathological action of gut microbiota on the brain is based on microbial release of soluble neurotransmitters, hormones, immune molecules and neuroactive metabolites, but this complex scenario requires reliable and controllable tools for its causal demonstration. Thanks to three-dimensional (3D) cultures and microfluidics, engineered in vitro models could improve the scientific knowledge in this field, also from a therapeutic perspective. This review briefly retraces the main discoveries linking the activity of gut microbiota to prevalent brain neurodegenerative disorders, and then provides a deep insight into the state-of-the-art for in vitro modeling of the brain and the blood-brain barrier (BBB), two key players of the MGBA. Several brain and BBB microfluidic devices have already been developed to implement organ-on-a-chip solutions, but some limitations still exist. Future developments of organ-on-a-chip tools to model the MGBA will require an interdisciplinary approach and the synergy with cutting-edge technologies (for instance, bioprinting) to achieve multi-organ platforms and support basic research, also for the development of new therapies against neurodegenerative diseases.
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)435
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 10 2020

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