Exploiting nanogroove-induced cell culture anisotropy to advance in vitro brain models

Alex Bastiaens, Jean Philippe Frimat, Teun van Nunen, Regina Luttge (Corresponding author)

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A new generation of in vitro human brain models is vital to surpass the limitations of current cell culture platforms and animal cell lines in studying brain function and diseases. Brain-on-chip technology can generate well-defined and reproducible platforms to control the cellular microenvironment for in vivo-like, organized brain cell cultures. Previously, the authors investigated differentiation and network organization of the neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cell line on nanogrooved substrates, showing that nanogroove guidance of neuronal outgrowths is dependent on nanogroove dimensions. Further, increased orientation of neurites was positively correlated to the differentiation of SH-SY5Y cells. However, as mimicking brain structure alone is insufficient, here, the function of the neuronal cell network as dependent on surface topography and material stiffness is investigated. A generalized replication protocol was developed to create similar nanogrooved patterns in cell culture substrates from different materials, specifically polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and Ostemer. Experiments using calcium imaging, where calcium fluxes across membranes are visualized as an indication of action potentials in neuronal cells, were performed with differentiated SH-SY5Y cells and human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neuronal cells (hiPSCNs) on flat versus nanogrooved substrates to study the network function. Calcium live-imaging was performed and results for experiments with SH-SY5Y cells and hiPSCNs showed that nanogrooved PDMS substrates trended toward increased cellular activity and neuronal cell network connectivity. For future investigation of compatible substrate materials in combination with the effect of material stiffness on the cells, nanogrooved Ostemer substrates were demonstrated to faithfully replicate for use in neuronal cell cultures using nanogrooved substrates. First experiments into the neuronal cell function using stem cells described here aid toward elucidating the effect of nanotopographical and mechanical properties and their benefits toward advancing in vitro neuronal cell models both in form and function. Overall, the results indicate, in conjunction with the previous findings on neuronal outgrowth guidance, that anisotropy as introduced by nanogrooved substrates can have a controllable and potentially beneficial influence on neuronal cell cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number061802
JournalJournal of Vacuum Science and Technology B: Nanotechnology and Microelectronics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


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