Cortical neurons, in their native state, are organized in six different cell layers; and the thickness of the cell layer ranges from 0.12 mm to 0.4 mm. The structure of cell layers plays an important role in neurodegenerative diseases or corticogenesis. We developed a 3D microfluidic device for creating physiologically realistic, micrometer scaled neural cell layers. Using this device, we demonstrated that (1) agarose-alginate mixture can be gelled thermally, thus an excellent candidate for forming multi-layered scaffolds for micropatterning embedded cells; (2) primary cortical neurons were cultured successfully for up to three weeks in the micropatterned multi-layered scaffold; (3) B27 concentration gradient enhanced neurite outgrowth. In addition, this device is compatible with optical microscopy, the dynamic process of neural growth can be imaged, and density and number of neurites can be quantified. This device can potentially be used for drug development, as well as research in basic neural biology.
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