Film interface for drug testing for delivery to cells in culture and in the brain.
Brain access remains a major challenge in drug testing. The nearly 'impermeable' blood-brain-barrier (BBB) prevents most drugs from gaining access to brain cells via systematic intravenous (IV) injection. In this study, silk fibroin films were used as drug carrier as well as cell culture substrate to simulate the in vivo interface between drug reservoir and brain cells for testing drug delivery in the brain. In in vitro studies, film-released arabinofuranosyl cytidine (AraC), a mitotic inhibitor, selectively killed glial cells in film-supported mixed neural cell cultures; with widened dosage windows for drug efficacy and tolerance compared to drugs in solution. In the brain, the presence of silk films was well tolerated with no signs of acute neuroinflammation, cell death, or altered brain function. Topical application of silk films on the cortical surface delivered Evans blue, a BBB-impenetrable fluorescent marker, through the intact dura matter into the parenchyma of the ipsilateral hemisphere as deep as the hippocampal region, but not the contralateral hemisphere. In a mouse traumatic brain injury (TBI) model, necrosis markers by film delivery accessed more cells in the lesion core than by con-current IV delivery; whereas the total coverage including the peri-lesional area appeared to be comparable between the two routes. The complementary distribution patterns of co-delivered markers provided direct evidence of the partial confinement of either route's access to brain cells by a restrictive zone near the lesion border. Finally, film-delivered necrostatin-1 reduced overall cell necrosis by approximately 40% in the TBI model. These findings from representative small molecules of delivery route-dependent drug access are broadly applicable for evaluating drug actions both in vitro and in vivo. Combined with its demonstrated role of supporting neuron-electrode interfaces, the film system can be further developed for testing a range of neuromodulation approaches (i.e., drug delivery, electrical stimulation, cell graft) in the brain. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: This study demonstrated that silk fibroin films can be used to evaluate drug actions both in vitro and in vivo, partially overcoming the significant delivery barriers of the brain. This system can be adapted for efficient drug access to specific brain regions and/or cell types. The film system can be further developed for testing a range of interventions with drugs, electrical signals or cell graft for analysis of treatment outcomes including cell responses and brain function.