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TitleRewiring Neuronal Circuits: A New Method for Fast Neurite Extension and Functional Neuronal Connection.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMagdesian, Margaret H., Madeleine Anthonisen, Monserratt G Lopez-Ayon, Xue Ying Chua, Matthew Rigby, and Peter Grutter
JournalJ Vis Exp
Date Published2017 Jun 13
KeywordsAnimals, Axons, Cells, Cultured, Hippocampus, Microfluidics, Neural Pathways, Neurites, Neurons, Rats, Reproducibility of Results, Spinal Cord Injuries

Brain and spinal cord injury may lead to permanent disability and death because it is still not possible to regenerate neurons over long distances and accurately reconnect them with an appropriate target. Here a procedure is described to rapidly initiate, elongate, and precisely connect new functional neuronal circuits over long distances. The extension rates achieved reach over 1.2 mm/h, 30-60 times faster than the in vivo rates of the fastest growing axons from the peripheral nervous system (0.02 to 0.04 mm/h)and 10 times faster than previously reported for the same neuronal type at an earlier stage of development. First, isolated populations of rat hippocampal neurons are grown for 2-3 weeks in microfluidic devices to precisely position the cells, enabling easy micromanipulation and experimental reproducibility. Next, beads coated with poly-D-lysine (PDL) are placed on neurites to form adhesive contacts and pipette micromanipulation is used to move the resulting bead-neurite complex. As the bead is moved, it pulls out a new neurite that can be extended over hundreds of micrometers and functionally connected to a target cell in less than 1 h. This process enables experimental reproducibility and ease of manipulation while bypassing slower chemical strategies to induce neurite growth. Preliminary measurements presented here demonstrate a neuronal growth rate far exceeding physiological ones. Combining these innovations allows for the precise establishment of neuronal networks in culture with an unprecedented degree of control. It is a novel method that opens the door to a plethora of information and insights into signal transmission and communication within the neuronal network as well as being a playground in which to explore the limits of neuronal growth. The potential applications and experiments are widespread with direct implications for therapies that aim to reconnect neuronal circuits after trauma or in neurodegenerative diseases.

Alternate JournalJ Vis Exp
PubMed ID28654038