Network dynamics of 3D engineered neuronal cultures: a new experimental model for in-vitro electrophysiology

Monica Frega, Mariateresa Tedesco, Paolo Massobrio, Mattia Pesce, Sergio Martinoia

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Despite the extensive use of in-vitro models for neuroscientific investigations and notwithstanding the growing field of network electrophysiology, all studies on cultured cells devoted to elucidate neurophysiological mechanisms and computational properties, are based on 2D neuronal networks. These networks are usually grown onto specific rigid substrates (also with embedded electrodes) and lack of most of the constituents of the in-vivo like environment: cell morphology, cell-to-cell interaction and neuritic outgrowth in all directions. Cells in a brain region develop in a 3D space and interact with a complex multi-cellular environment and extracellular matrix. Under this perspective, 3D networks coupled to micro-transducer arrays, represent a new and powerful in-vitro model capable of better emulating in-vivo physiology. In this work, we present a new experimental paradigm constituted by 3D hippocampal networks coupled to Micro-Electrode-Arrays (MEAs) and we show how the features of the recorded network dynamics differ from the corresponding 2D network model. Further development of the proposed 3D in-vitro model by adding embedded functionalized scaffolds might open new prospects for manipulating, stimulating and recording the neuronal activity to elucidate neurophysiological mechanisms and to design bio-hybrid microsystems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5489
JournalScientific reports
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


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