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Adv Healthc Mater. 2018 Jan;7(2). doi: 10.1002/adhm.201700489. Epub 2017 Sep 7.

In Vitro Microfluidic Models for Neurodegenerative Disorders.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institutes of Technology, 500 Technology Square MIT Building, Room NE47-321, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA.
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129, Torino, Italy.
Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institutes of Technology, 500 Technology Square, MIT Building, Room NE47-321, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA.


Microfluidic devices enable novel means of emulating neurodegenerative disease pathophysiology in vitro. These organ-on-a-chip systems can potentially reduce animal testing and substitute (or augment) simple 2D culture systems. Reconstituting critical features of neurodegenerative diseases in a biomimetic system using microfluidics can thereby accelerate drug discovery and improve our understanding of the mechanisms of several currently incurable diseases. This review describes latest advances in modeling neurodegenerative diseases in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. First, this study summarizes fundamental advantages of microfluidic devices in the creation of compartmentalized cell culture microenvironments for the co-culture of neurons, glial cells, endothelial cells, and skeletal muscle cells and in their recapitulation of spatiotemporal chemical gradients and mechanical microenvironments. Then, this reviews neurodegenerative-disease-on-a-chip models focusing on Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Finally, this study discusses about current drawbacks of these models and strategies that may overcome them. These organ-on-chip technologies can be useful to be the first line of testing line in drug development and toxicology studies, which can contribute significantly to minimize the phase of animal testing steps.


central nervous system; microfluidic devices; neurodegenerative diseases; neuromuscular junctions; organ-on-a-chip

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