Modeling alpha-synuclein pathology in a human Brain-Chip to assess blood-brain barrier disruption

Nature Communications (2021)


Parkinson’s disease and related synucleinopathies are characterized by the abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein aggregates, loss of dopaminergic neurons, and gliosis of the substantia nigra. Although clinical evidence and in vitro studies indicate disruption of the Blood-Brain Barrier in Parkinson’s disease, the mechanisms mediating the endothelial dysfunction is not well understood. Here we leveraged the Organs-on-Chips technology to develop a human Brain-Chip representative of the substantia nigra area of the brain containing dopaminergic neurons, astrocytes, microglia, pericytes, and microvascular brain endothelial cells, cultured under fluid flow. Our αSyn fibril-induced model was capable of reproducing several key aspects of Parkinson’s disease, including accumulation of phosphorylated αSyn (pSer129-αSyn), mitochondrial impairment, neuroinflammation, and compromised barrier function. This model may enable research into the dynamics of cell-cell interactions in human synucleinopathies and serve as a testing platform for target identification and validation of novel therapeutics.