Human blood-labyrinth barrier on a chip: a unique in vitro tool for investigation of BLB properties

RSC Adv. 2023 Aug 25;13(36):25508-25517. doi: 10.1039/d3ra04704k. eCollection 2023 Aug 21.


Hearing loss is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, usually as a result of hair cell damage in the inner ear due to aging, acoustic trauma, or exposure to antibiotics or chemotherapy. No drug therapies can protect or restore hearing and current in vitro and animal models used in drug discovery have a very low success rate, mostly due to major differences in anatomy and accessibility of the inner ear environment between species. The blood-labyrinth barrier (BLB) in the stria vascularis is a highly specialized capillary network that controls exchanges between the blood and interstitial space in the cochlea. The BLB is critical for normal hearing, functioning as a physical, transport, and metabolic barrier. To address its complexity and accessibility, we created the first micro-engineered human model of BLB on a chip using autogenous progenitor cells from adult temporal bones. We successfully isolated the BLB from post-mortem human tissue and established an endothelial cell and pericyte culture system on a BLB chip. Using biocompatible materials, we fabricated sustainable two chamber chips. We validated the size-dependent permeability limits of our BLB model by measuring the permeability to daptomycin (molecular weight 1.6 kDa) and midazolam (molecular weight 325.78 Da). Daptomycin did not pass through the BLB layer, whereas midazolam readily passed through the BLB in our system. Thus, our BLB-chip mimicked the integrity and permeability of human stria vascularis capillaries. This represents a major step towards establishing a reliable model for the development of hearing loss treatments.

PMID:37636514 | PMC:PMC10450574 | DOI:10.1039/d3ra04704k


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