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http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/ChemTech/ ... _chips.asp
Circular chips study nerve cells
19 January 2010
Scientists in the US have designed a circular microchannel pattern to study nerve cell interactions that are implicated in neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.
The central nervous system is made up of several highly specialized cell types, including neurons, axons and glial cells. Axons are nerve fibres which allow neurons to communicate with each other, while glials maintain and protect neurons from disease. Damaged axons and increased glial-axon interactions have been implicated in a large number of neurologic disorders. But little is known about the mechanisms of these interactions or how axons respond to inflammation in the presence of disease, explains Arun Venkatesan at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
Previous lab-on-a-chip devices have been unable to precisely control the different microenvironments that axons and glial cells exist in, which has made their study difficult. Now, Venkatesan and colleagues have designed a circular device that advances existing technologies and enables cells to be directly placed in their own environments. Venkatesan observed that glial cells accumulated more at injured axons rather than healthy ones.
The round device houses axons and glial cells in their own microenvironments
The device is made up of several individual units, each with two compartments that house axons and glial cells in their own microenvironment connected by an array of microchannels. Manipulating the cells using techniques such as centrifugation, microstencilling and pipetting allows different interactions to be investigated.
'The circular format of the device is ingenious,' Says Albert Folch, an expert in microfluidics at the University of Washington, Seattle, US, 'because it allows for performing 16 assays at once, while at the same time allows centrifugation to enrich the cell densities at the channel entrances.'
Venkatesan says the device can be used to focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which glial cells respond to damaged axons. 'Once we understand this, we hope to be able to redirect the response of these cells to protect and regenerate axons, with the aim of halting and reversing disability in disorders such as multiple sclerosis,' he adds.