Electric fields have been studied extensively in biomedical engineering (BME) for numerous regenerative therapies. Recent studies have begun to examine the biological effects of electric fields in combination with other environmental cues, such as tissue-engineered extracellular matrices (ECM), chemical gradient profiles, and time-dependent temperature gradients. In the nervous system, cell migration driven by electrical fields, or galvanotaxis, has been most recently studied in transcranial direct stimulation (TCDS), spinal cord repair and tumor treating fields (TTF). The cell migratory response to galvano-combinatory fields, such as magnetic fields, chemical gradients, or heat shock, has only recently been explored. In the visual system, restoration of vision via cellular replacement therapies has been limited by low numbers of motile cells post-transplantation. Here, the combinatory application of electrical fields with other stimuli to direct cells within transplantable biomaterials and/or host tissues has been understudied. In this work, we developed the Gal-MµS device, a novel microfluidics device capable of examining cell migratory behavior in response to single and combinatory stimuli of electrical and chemical fields. The formation of steady-state, chemical concentration gradients and electrical fields within the Gal-MµS were modeled computationally and verified experimentally within devices fabricated via soft lithography. Further, we utilized real-time imaging within the device to capture cell trajectories in response to electric fields and chemical gradients, individually, as well as in combinatory fields of both. Our data demonstrated that neural cells migrated longer distances and with higher velocities in response to combined galvanic and chemical stimuli than to either field individually, implicating cooperative behavior. These results reveal a biological response to galvano-chemotactic fields that is only partially understood, as well as point towards novel migration-targeted treatments to improve cell-based regenerative therapies.
Keywords: SDF-1; electric field; microdevice; nervous system; retina.