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The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is the specialised microvasculature system that shields the central nervous system (CNS) from potentially toxic agents. Attempts to develop therapeutic agents targeting the CNS have been hindered by the lack of predictive models of BBB crossing. In vitro models mimicking the human BBB are of great interest, and advances in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technologies and the availability of reproducible differentiation protocols have facilitated progress. In this study, we present the efficient differentiation of three different wild-type iPSC lines into brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMECs). Once differentiated, cells displayed several features of BMECs and exhibited significant barrier tightness as measured by trans-endothelial electrical resistance (TEER), ranging from 1500 to >6000 Ωcm2. To assess the functionality of our BBB models, we analysed the crossing efficiency of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors and peptide-conjugated antisense oligonucleotides, both currently used in genetic approaches for the treatment of rare diseases. We demonstrated superior barrier crossing by AAV serotype 9 compared to serotype 8, and no crossing by a cell-penetrating peptide-conjugated antisense oligonucleotide. In conclusion, our study shows that iPSC-based models of the human BBB display robust phenotypes and could be used to screen drugs for CNS penetration in culture.

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adeno-associated virus vectors, antisense oligonucleotides, brain microvascular endothelial cells, gene therapy, human blood–brain barrier, induced pluripotent stem cells, phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, spinal muscular atrophy, trans-endothelial electrical resistance