Separation methods that are capable of revealing blood-brain barrier permeability

Alekha K. Dash, William F. Elmquist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The objective of this review is to emphasize the application of separation science in evaluating the blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability to drugs and bioactive agents. Several techniques have been utilized to quantitate the BBB permeability. These methods can be classified into two major categories: in vitro or in vivo. The in vivo methods used include brain homogenization, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sampling, voltametry, autoradiography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, positron emission tomography (PET), intracerebral microdialysis, and brain uptake index (BUI) determination. The in vitro methods include tissue culture and immobilized artificial membrane (IAM) technology. Separation methods have always played an important role as adjunct methods to the methods outlined above for the quantitation of BBB permeability and have been utilized the most with brain homogenization, in situ brain perfusion, CSF sampling, intracerebral microdialysis, in vitro tissue culture and IAM chromatography. However, the literature published to date indicates that the separation method has been used the most in conjunction with intracerebral microdialysis and CSF sampling methods. The major advantages of microdialysis sampling in BBB permeability studies is the possibility of online separation and quantitation as well as the need for only a small sample volume for such an analysis. Separation methods are preferred over non-separation methods in BBB permeability evaluation for two main reasons. First, when the selectivity of a determination method is insufficient, interfering substances must be separated from the analyte of interest prior to determination. Secondly, when large number of analytes is to be detected and quantitated by a single analytical procedure, the mixture must be separated to each individual component prior to determination. Chiral separation in particular can be essential to evaluate the stereo-selective permeation and distribution of agents into the brain. In conclusion, the usefulness of separation methods during BBB permeability evaluation is immense and more application of these methods is foreseen in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-254
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chromatography B: Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 25 2003


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Reviews


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