ARTIFICIAL BRAIN NETWORK COULD HELP US UNDERSTAND OUR REACTIONS TO METH
- November 18, 2018
Did you know that your brain contains 100 billion neurons, and each of these special cells controls every thought, movement, or action you take? While powerful, our little gray engine is also the most delicate and precious organ in our bodies and needs special protection from bacteria, diseases, and viruses. As a safeguard, the blood vessels in our neural network comprise a network called the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), a conglomerate of pericyte and astrocyte cells that determine which molecules come in and which ones leave. However, once this network is exposed to dangerous substances like meth or cocaine, these neurons can sustain severe trauma. So how does the toxic drug crystal meth interfere with these cells? Let’s take a closer look at how scientists have developed an artificial BBB to analyze these circumstances.
Fake Brain, Real Situation
At the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, scientists have developed what they have affectionately called the “just right” model, a synthetic BBB interface linked (via microfluids) to a series of Organ Chips. Once this “fake brain” network is exposed to meth, it reacts the same way our actual BBB network would react in real-time. Through precise experimentation, these researchers can now simulate the brain’s vascular functions and determine how crystal meth disrupts blood flow and metabolism in our gray matter.
When meth is introduced into a human’s system, an individual’s brain begins to leak, so to speak. Once it enters the bloodstream, this deadly drug plows tears through the neural network and leaves a huge gash in our BBB connection. As a result, vascular endothelial cells sustain tremendous damage, and toxic chemicals (which normally wouldn’t be allowed through) enter the addict’s brain. Now, with the help of the Organ Chips, scientists have officially witnessed this incident taking place.
So what are the final results of the meth test on the Organ Chips? Scientists determined that the health of our blood vessels is more critical to neurological health than originally perceived, and crystal meth directly damages our BBB network, causing toxic chemicals to inflict deep damage on gray matter.
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