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Front Neurosci. 2017 Oct 31;11:606. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00606. eCollection 2017.

Optimised PDMS Tunnel Devices on MEAs Increase the Probability of Detecting Electrical Activity from Human Stem Cell-Derived Neuronal Networks.

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NeuroGroup, BioMediTech Institute and Faculty of Medicine and Biosciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
Micro and Nanosystems Research Group, BioMediTech Institute and Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland.


Measurement of the activity of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived neuronal networks with microelectrode arrays (MEAs) plays an important role in functional in vitro brain modelling and in neurotoxicological screening. The previously reported hPSC-derived neuronal networks do not, however, exhibit repeatable, stable functional network characteristics similar to rodent cortical cultures, making the interpretation of results difficult. In earlier studies, microtunnels have been used both to control and guide cell growth and amplify the axonal signals of rodent neurons. The aim of the current study was to develop tunnel devices that would facilitate signalling and/or signal detection in entire hPSC-derived neuronal networks containing not only axons, but also somata and dendrites. Therefore, MEA-compatible polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) tunnel devices with 8 different dimensions were created. The hPSC-derived neurons were cultured in the tunnel devices on MEAs, and the spontaneous electrical activity of the networks was measured for 5 weeks. Although the tunnel devices improved the signal-to-noise ratio only by 1.3-fold at best, they significantly increased the percentage of electrodes detecting neuronal activity (52-100%) compared with the controls (27%). Significantly higher spike and burst counts were also obtained using the tunnel devices. Neuronal networks inside the tunnels were amenable to pharmacological manipulation. The results suggest that tunnel devices encompassing the entire neuronal network can increase the measured spontaneous activity in hPSC-derived neuronal networks on MEAs. Therefore, they can increase the efficiency of functional studies of hPSC-derived networks on MEAs.


human pluripotent stem cells; in vitro model; microelectrode array; neuronal network; tunnel device

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