A microfluidic platform for controlled biochemical stimulation of twin neuronal networks

Emilia Biffi, Francesco Piraino, Alessandra Pedrocchi, Gianfranco B. Fiore, Giancarlo Ferrigno, Alberto Redaelli, Andrea Menegon, Marco Rasponi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatially and temporally resolved delivery of soluble factors is a key feature for pharmacological applications. In this framework, microfluidics coupled to multisite electrophysiology offers great advantages in neuropharmacology and toxicology. In this work, a microfluidic device for biochemical stimulation of neuronal networks was developed. A micro-chamber for cell culturing, previously developed and tested for long term neuronal growth by our group, was provided with a thin wall, which partially divided the cell culture region in two sub-compartments. The device was reversibly coupled to a flat micro electrode array and used to culture primary neurons in the same microenvironment. We demonstrated that the two fluidically connected compartments were able to originate two parallel neuronal networks with similar electrophysiological activity but functionally independent. Furthermore, the device allowed to connect the outlet port to a syringe pump and to transform the static culture chamber in a perfused one. At 14 days invitro, sub-networks were independently stimulated with a test molecule, tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin known to block action potentials, by means of continuous delivery. Electrical activity recordings proved the ability of the device configuration to selectively stimulate each neuronal network individually. The proposed microfluidic approach represents an innovative methodology to perform biological, pharmacological, and electrophysiological experiments on neuronal networks. Indeed, it allows for controlled delivery of substances to cells, and it overcomes the limitations due to standard drug stimulation techniques. Finally, the twin network configuration reduces biological variability, which has important outcomes on pharmacological and drug screening.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024106
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 26 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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