Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Yale J Biol Med. 2012 Dec;85(4):501-21. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Over a century of neuron culture: from the hanging drop to microfluidic devices.

Author information

  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Neuroscience Program, and Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA.


The brain is the most intricate, energetically active, and plastic organ in the body. These features extend to its cellular elements, the neurons and glia. Understanding neurons, or nerve cells, at the cellular and molecular levels is the cornerstone of modern neuroscience. The complexities of neuron structure and function require unusual methods of culture to determine how aberrations in or between cells give rise to brain dysfunction and disease. Here we review the methods that have emerged over the past century for culturing neurons in vitro, from the landmark finding by Harrison (1910) - that neurons can be cultured outside the body - to studies utilizing culture vessels, micro-islands, Campenot and brain slice chambers, and microfluidic technologies. We conclude with future prospects for neuronal culture and considerations for advancement. We anticipate that continued innovation in culture methods will enhance design capabilities for temporal control of media and reagents (chemotemporal control) within sub-cellular environments of three-dimensional fluidic spaces (microfluidic devices) and materials (e.g., hydrogels). They will enable new insights into the complexities of neuronal development and pathology.


PDMS; brain slice culture; cell culture; co-culture; culture chamber; culture flask; culture substrate; hanging drop; microfluidics; neuron; organotypic culture; polydimethylsiloxane; substrate patterning

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk