Microphysiological Models of the Central Nervous System

Because of our limited understanding of the highly complex cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions in the central nervous system and how these interactions coordinate tissue function, in vitro experimental models have not adequately reflected in vivo physiology necessitating intensive use of animal models. Biomaterials can be engineered to present defined, extracellular matrices that can greatly simplify the experimental variability in biological systems so that effects of a single variable can be experimentally isolated in vitro. We are culturing human neural stem cells within such 3D, biomaterial-based platforms to identify key physiological interactions between cells and their environment during central nervous system tissue development, repair, and disease progression. In addition, we have developed methods for high-throughput screening within these biomimetic cultures that can be used for development of new clinical therapies.