Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, United States. Electronic address: [Email]
Tissue engineered systems are important models for the testing and discovery of therapeutics against a number of diseases. The use of these models in vitro can expand both our understanding of the mechanisms behind disease and allow for higher throughput and personalized modeling of therapeutic response. Over the past decade there has been an explosion of models of neurological disorders that can be used in vitro to study new therapies against devastating neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, and neuro-oncological disease. These models span several types of engineered microenvironments which are produced using microfluidic devices, microtissue technology and/or the incorporation of biomaterial scaffolds to model neurological conditions such as; Alzheimer's disease, idiopathic autism, Parkinson's disease, Zika-induced microcephaly and neoplasms. Using engineered brain microenvironments, therapeutics can be tested in more physiologically relevant ways leading to new knowledge of the underlying causes and interactions occurring at the tissue level. However, much is still left to learn and model within these systems to make them truly valuable in the discovery and testing of novel therapies. Here we review the current state of the art of engineered brain microenvironments being used specifically to screen and test new therapeutic strategies and discuss the current benefits and limitations that still exist.