Linking fluid-axons interactions to the macroscopic fluid transport properties of the brain

Tian Yuan* (Corresponding Author), Wenbo Zhan, Daniele Dini* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Many brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, and drug delivery procedures are linked to fluid transport in the brain; yet, while neurons are extremely soft and can be easily deformed, how the microscale channel flow interacts with the neuronal structures (especially axons) deformation and how these interactions affect the macroscale tissue function and transport properties is poorly understood. Misrepresenting these relationships may lead to the erroneous prediction of e.g. disease spread, drug delivery, and nerve injury in the brain. However, understanding fluid-neuron interactions is an outstanding challenge because the behaviours of both phases are not only dynamic but also occur at an extremely small length scale (the width of the flow channel is 100 nm), which cannot be captured by state-of-the-art experimental techniques. Here, by explicitly simulating the dynamics of the flow and axons at the microstructural level, we, for the first time, establish the link between micromechanical tissue response to the physical laws governing the macroscopic transport property of the brain white matter. We found that interactions between axons and the interstitial flow are very strong, thus playing an essential role in the brain fluid/mass transport. Furthermore, we proposed the first anisotropic pressure-dependent permeability tensor informed by microstructural dynamics for more accurate brain modelling at the macroscale, and analysed the effect of the variation of the microstructural parameters that influence such tensor. These findings will shed light on some unsolved issues linked to brain functions and medical treatments relying on intracerebral transport, and the mathematical model provides a framework to more realistically model the brain and design brain-tissue-like biomaterials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-163
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online date15 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

This project has received funding from the European Unions Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 688279. Daniele Dini would like to acknowledge the support received from the EPSRC under the Established Career Fellowship Grant No. EP/N025954/1. Wenbo Zhan would like to acknowledge the support received from the Children with Cancer UK under the project Children’s Brain Tumour Drug Delivery Consortium Grant No. 16–224.

Data Availability Statement

Supplementary material associated with this article can be found, in the online version, at 10.1016/j.actbio.2023.02.010


  • Biomechanics
  • Brain
  • Microstructure
  • Fluid transport
  • Permeability tensor


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