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Curr Neuropharmacol. 2016;14(1):72-86.

Compartmentalized Platforms for Neuro-Pharmacological Research.

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Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR.


Dissociated primary neuronal cell culture remains an indispensable approach for neurobiology research in order to investigate basic mechanisms underlying diverse neuronal functions, drug screening and pharmacological investigation. Compartmentalization, a widely adopted technique since its emergence in 1970s enables spatial segregation of neuronal segments and detailed investigation that is otherwise limited with traditional culture methods. Although these compartmental chambers (e.g. Campenot chamber) have been proven valuable for the investigation of Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) neurons and to some extent within Central Nervous System (CNS) neurons, their utility has remained limited given the arduous manufacturing process, incompatibility with high-resolution optical imaging and limited throughput. The development in the area of microfabrication and microfluidics has enabled creation of next generation compartmentalized devices that are cheap, easy to manufacture, require reduced sample volumes, enable precise control over the cellular microenvironment both spatially as well as temporally, and permit highthroughput testing. In this review we briefly evaluate the various compartmentalization tools used for neurobiological research, and highlight application of the emerging microfluidic platforms towards in vitro single cell neurobiology.

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