Implementation and characterization of a physiologically relevant flow waveform in a 3D microfluidic model of the blood–brain barrier

Nesrine Bouhrira, Brandon J. DeOre, Peter A. Galie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Previous in vitro studies interrogating the endothelial response to physiologically relevant flow regimes require specialized pumps to deliver time-dependent waveforms that imitate in vivo blood flow. The aim of this study is to create a low-cost and broadly adaptable approach to mimic physiological flow, and then use this system to characterize the effect of flow separation on velocity and shear stress profiles in a three-dimensional (3D) topology. The flow apparatus incorporates a programmable linear actuator that superposes oscillations on a constant mean flow driven by a peristaltic pump to emulate flow in the carotid artery. The flow is perfused through a 3D in vitro model of the blood–brain barrier designed to induce separated flow. Experimental flow patterns measured by microparticle image velocimetry and modeled by computational fluid dynamics reveal periodic changes in the instantaneous shear stress along the channel wall. Moreover, the time-dependent flow causes periodic flow separation zones, resulting in variable reattachment points during the cycle. The effects of these complex flow regimes are assessed by evaluating the integrity of the in vitro blood–brain barrier model. Permeability assays and immunostaining for proteins associated with tight junctions reveal barrier breakdown in the region of disturbed flow. In conclusion, the flow system described here creates complex, physiologically relevant flow profiles that provide deeper insight into the fluid dynamics of separated flow and pave the way for future studies interrogating the cellular response to complex flow regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2411-2421
Number of pages11
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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