Blood-Brain Barrier Group

The central nervous system (CNS) has a unique relationship with the immune system known as CNS immune privilege. We propose that CNS immune privilege is established by the endothelial blood-brain barrier (BBB), the epithelial blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB), the blood-arachnoid barrier (BAB) and the glia limitans which divide the CNS into compartments that differ with respect to their accessibility to soluble and cellular components of the immune system. CNS brain barriers anatomy thus resembles the architecture of a medieval castle surrounded by two walls bordering a castle moat. Immune surveillance is accommodated in the two-walled rampart at the outer perimeter of the CNS parenchyma and allows for mounting immune responses without directly disturbing communication of neurons in the CNS parenchyma. Disruption or impaired function of the brain barriers will thus translate into clinical disease. 

Our research is devoted to understanding the function of the different brain barriers in regulating CNS immune surveillance and how their impaired function contributes to neuroinflammatory diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Our laboratory combines expertise in vascular biology, neuroimmunology and live cell imaging and has developed sophisticated in vitro and in vivo approaches to study immune cell interactions with the brain barriers in health and neuroinflammation. To this end we have advanced sophisticated in vitro and in vivo live cell imaging technologies, transgenic mouse models as well as novel in vitro models of the mouse and more recently also the human blood-brain barrier (BBB) and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier (BCSFB) including breakthrough microfluidics and have defined novel cellular, subcellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the migration of different immune cell subsets across the BBB and BCSFB during immune surveillance and neuroinflammation.

Figure cells


Dr. rer. physiol. Britta Engelhardt
Professor for Immunobiology
Theodor Kocher Institute
University of Bern
Freiestrasse 1
CH-3012 Bern

Phone:  + 41 31 684 4143
Twitter: @Britta_in_Bern