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Studying axonal transport in patterned microfluidic devices
Funding: NSF Nanobiotechnology Center
Local changes in the neuronal microenvironment that impinge on different parts of the cell play a key role in neural development and in neural disease. Axonal specification, axonal guidance, axonal and dendritic branching--all are regulated by local signaling. In disease states, local stressors like hypoxia or inflammatory cytokines are thought to impair axonal transport, ultimately causing synaptic dysfunction and cell death. At present, there is no experimental model for dynamically controlling the environment of nerve cells in culture that even remotely matches the spatial precision of extracellular signaling that occurs in vivo. Historically, two general strategies have been utilized to control the neuronal microenvironment; both suffer from comparatively low spatial resolution and poor reproducibility. One approach uses “compartmented” cultures, which consist of two or more chambers whose fluid composition can be independently controlled; neurons are induced to grow beneath a barrier separating the compartments. These “Campenot chambers” require axons to grow several millimeters beneath a grease seal, following scratches in the substrate made by hand. They are notoriously unreliable, due both to leaks between chambers and poor axon growth. Moreover, only neurons from the peripheral nervous system grow long enough axons to reach the second chamber. Microfabrication has been implemented recently to address this, but has not to date isolated single axons nor allowed for microfluidic or laser-enhanced delivery of solutes. In collaboration with Gary Banker at Oregon Health and Science University, our current efforts combine micropatterned surfaces for single-axonal guidance combined with microfluidic control of solutes to allow for detailed study of transport in isolated axons.

Archival Publications

PDF version of Barbati, Fang, Banker, Kirby:
Culture of primary rat hippocampal neurons: design, analysis, and optimization of a microfluidic
device for cell seeding, coherent growth, and solute delivery

Barbati AC, Fang C, Banker GA, Kirby BJ,
"Culture of primary rat hippocampal neurons: design, analysis, and optimization of a microfluidic device for cell seeding, coherent growth, and solute delivery", Biomedical Microdevices, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 97-108, 2013. doi pdf

Presentations and Other Publications
3-7 Oct 2010

Barbati AC , Fang C , Banker GA , Kirby BJ
"Experimentation and modeling of a microfluidic device demonstrating geometric coercion for the directed growth and observation of rat hippocampal neurons", MicroTAS 2010, Groningen, The Netherlands.

1-5 Nov 2009 Barbati AC , Fang C, Banker GA, Kirby BJ
"Microfluidic Device and Culture Platform for the Observation and Control of Axonal Growth and Axonal Organelle Transport of Rat Hippocampal Neurons", MicroTAS 2009, Jeju, Korea.
27 Jun-3 Jul 2009

Barbati AC, Kirby BJ
Gordon Research Conference on Microfluidics, Lucca, Italy.

27 Oct 2008

Kirby BJ
"Geometric patterning to control cell growth, capture, and transport", NBTC Annual Symposium, Ithaca, NY.

Micropattered pads for control of neuron and axon growth. Thin lines are 2 microns in size, and facilitate isolation of single axons for study.