Permeability of epithelial/endothelial barriers in transwells and microfluidic bilayer devices

Timothy S. Frost, Linan Jiang, Ronald M. Lynch, Yitshak Zohar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Lung-on-a-chip (LoC) models hold the potential to rapidly change the landscape for pulmonary drug screening and therapy, giving patients more advanced and less invasive treatment options. Understanding the drug absorption in these microphysiological systems, modeling the lung-blood barrier is essential for increasing the role of the organ-on-a-chip technology in drug development. In this work, epithelial/endothelial barrier tissue interfaces were established in microfluidic bilayer devices and transwells, with porous membranes, for permeability characterization. The effect of shear stress on the molecular transport was assessed using known paracellular and transcellular biomarkers. The permeability of porous membranes without cells, in both models, is inversely proportional to the molecular size due to its diffusivity. Paracellular transport, between epithelial/endothelial cell junctions, of large molecules such as transferrin, as well as transcellular transport, through cell lacking required active transporters, of molecules such as dextrans, is negligible. When subjected to shear stress, paracellular transport of intermediate-size molecules such as dextran was enhanced in microfluidic devices when compared to transwells. Similarly, shear stress enhances paracellular transport of small molecules such as Lucifer yellow, but its effect on transcellular transport is not clear. The results highlight the important role that LoC can play in drug absorption studies to accelerate pulmonary drug development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number533
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Barrier permeability
  • Epithelial-endothelial interface
  • Paracellular/transcellular transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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