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J Neurotrauma. 2011 Nov;28(11):2377-87. doi: 10.1089/neu.2010.1606. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Microfluidic generation of haptotactic gradients through 3D collagen gels for enhanced neurite growth.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


We adapted a microfluidic system used previously to generate durotactic gradients of stiffness in a 3D collagen gel, to produce haptotactic gradients of adhesive ligands through the collagen gel. Oligopeptide sequences that included bioactive peptide sequences from laminin, YIGSR, or IKVAV, were grafted separately onto type I collagen using 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide (EDC). Solutions of peptide-grafted collagen and untreated collagen were then used as source and sink input solutions, respectively, in an H-shaped microfluidic network fabricated using traditional soft lithography. One-dimensional gradients of the peptide-grafted collagen solution were generated in the channel that connected the source and sink channels, and these gradients became immobilized upon self-assembly of the collagen into a 3D fibrillar gel. The slope and average concentration of the gradients were adjusted by changing the concentration of the source solutions and by changing the length of the cross-channel. A separate, underlying channel in the microfluidic construct allowed the introduction of a chick embryo dorsal root ganglion into the network. Neurites from these explants grew significantly longer up steep gradients of YIGSR, but shallow gradients of IKVAV in comparison to untreated collagen controls. When these two gradients were presented in combination, the bias in growth acceleration was the largest and most consistent. No differences were observed in the number of neurites choosing to grow up or down the gradients in any condition. These results suggest that the incorporation of distinct gradients of multiple bioactive ligands can improve directional acceleration of regenerating axons.

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