Our scientific article “A compartmentalized neuron-oligodendrocyte co-culture device for myelin research: design, fabrication and functionality testing” was published on the 3rd of May, 2019, in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering. The article represents multidisciplinary research of microfluidics technology and neurobiology between two research groups of our Centre of Excellence in Body-on-Chip Research (CoEBoC) and international collaboration with University of Porto, Portugal.
Myelination is an essential process for normal functioning of vertebrate nervous system and myelin deficits are associated with many neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis. Microfluidics devices are practical research tools in myelin research to decipher myelination mechanisms in health and disease and in the identification of novel treatments for myelin diseases. However, in the earlier developed devices, the spontaneous formation of myelin sheaths has been challenging and random orientation of neurites impede the analysis of myelination. Furthermore, fabrication methods for devices show limitations. We designed a compartmentalized cell culture device that promoted the formation of aligned-oriented neurites in a specific compartment physically isolated from neuronal somas. Deposition of myelin segments in an aligned distribution was spontaneously formed in the device with the co-culture of rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and oligodendrocytes. For the fabrication of the device, we developed a new method that produces polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) -based devices taking advantage of an SU-8 photolithography process and 3D printing for mould fabrication.
The developed device has already shown potential also for other research questions; the device is in active use in our CoEBoC projects and our international collaborations at the University of Wollongong, Australia, have tested and shown their interest in using the device in their research. Furthermore, the developed fabrication method has been utilized in the fabrication of other kind of microfluidics device in our research groups.
The research was funded by the Academy of Finland (Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher Mervi Ristola, 2016-2019 and CoEBoC), Business Finland and the Finnish MS Foundation.