Optimization of a 3D dynamic culturing system for in vitro modeling of Frontotemporal Neurodegeneration-relevant pathologic features

Marta Tunesi, Federica Fusco, Fabio Fiordaliso, Alessandro Corbelli, Gloria Biella, Manuela T. Raimondi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a severe neurodegenerative disorder that is diagnosed with increasing frequency in clinical setting. Currently, no therapy is available and in addition the molecular basis of the disease are far from being elucidated. Consequently, it is of pivotal importance to develop reliable and cost-effective in vitro models for basic research purposes and drug screening. To this respect, recent results in the field of Alzheimer's disease have suggested that a tridimensional (3D) environment is an added value to better model key pathologic features of the disease. Here, we have tried to add complexity to the 3D cell culturing concept by using a microfluidic bioreactor, where cells are cultured under a continuous flow of medium, thus mimicking the interstitial fluid movement that actually perfuses the body tissues, including the brain. We have implemented this model using a neuronal-like cell line (SH-SY5Y), a widely exploited cell model for neurodegenerative disorders that shows some basic features relevant for FTLD modeling, such as the release of the FTLD-related protein progranulin (PRGN) in specific vesicles (exosomes). We have efficiently seeded the cells on 3D scaffolds, optimized a disease-relevant oxidative stress experiment (by targeting mitochondrial function that is one of the possible FTLD-involved pathological mechanisms) and evaluated cell metabolic activity in dynamic culture in comparison to static conditions, finding that SH-SY5Y cells cultured in 3D scaffold are susceptible to the oxidative damage triggered by a mitochondrial-targeting toxin (6-OHDA) and that the same cells cultured in dynamic conditions kept their basic capacity to secrete PRGN in exosomes once recovered from the bioreactor and plated in standard 2D conditions. We think that a further improvement of our microfluidic system may help in providing a full device where assessing basic FTLD-related features (including PRGN dynamic secretion) that may be useful for monitoring disease progression over time or evaluating therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - Jun 22 2016


  • 3D cell culture
  • Bioreactor
  • Cell modeling
  • Exosomes
  • Microfluidic
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Progranulin
  • Scaffold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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