Microfluidic construction of minimalistic neuronal co-cultures

  • Dinh N
  • Chiang Y
  • Hardelauf H
 et al. 
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In this paper we present compartmentalized neuron arraying (CNA) microfluidic circuits for the preparation of neuronal networks using minimal cellular inputs (10–100-fold less than existing systems). The approach combines the benefits of microfluidics for precision single cell handling with biomaterial patterning for the long term maintenance of neuronal arrangements. A differential flow principle was used for cell metering and loading along linear arrays. An innovative water masking technique was developed for the inclusion of aligned biomaterial patterns within the microfluidic environment. For patterning primary neurons the technique involved the use of meniscus-pinning micropillars to align a water mask for plasma stencilling a poly-amine coating. The approach was extended for patterning the human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell line using a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) back-fill and for dopaminergic LUHMES neuronal precursors by the further addition of a fibronectin coating. The patterning efficiency Epatt was >75% during lengthy in chip culture, with ∼85% of the outgrowth channels occupied by neurites. Neurons were also cultured in next generation circuits which enable neurite guidance into all outgrowth channels for the formation of extensive inter-compartment networks. Fluidic isolation protocols were developed for the rapid and sustained treatment of the different cellular and sub-cellular compartments. In summary, this research demonstrates widely applicable microfluidic methods for the construction of compartmentalized brain models with single cell precision. These minimalistic ex vivo tissue constructs pave the way for high throughput experimentation to gain deeper insights into pathological processes such as Alzheimer and Parkinson Diseases, as well as neuronal development and function in health.

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  • Ngoc-Duy Dinh

  • Y.-Y. Ya-Yu Chiang

  • Heike Hardelauf

  • Jenny Baumann

  • Emily Jackson

  • Sarah Waide

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