Spheroid Culture of Mammalian Olfactory Receptor Neurons: Potential Applications for a Bioelectronic Nose

Exp Neurobiol. 2018 Dec;27(6):574-592. doi: 10.5607/en.2018.27.6.574. Epub 2018 Dec 28.


The olfactory system can detect many odorants with high sensitivity and selectivity based on the expression of nearly a thousand types of olfactory receptors (ORs) in olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). These ORs have a dynamic odorant detection range and contribute to signal encoding processes in the olfactory bulb (OB). To harness the capabilities of the olfactory system and develop a biomimetic sensor, stable culture and maintenance of ORNs are required. However, in vitro monolayer culture models have several key limitations: i) short available period of cultured neurons, ii) low cultural efficiency, and iii) long-term storage challenges. This study aims to develop a technique: i) to support the spheroid culture of primary ORN precursors facilitating stable maintenance and long-term storage, and ii) to demonstrate the viability of ORN spheroid culture in developing an olfactory system mimetic bioelectronic nose. Recombinant protein (REP; TGPG[VGRGD(VGVPG)6]20WPC) was used to form the ORN spheroids. Spheroid formation enabled preservation of primary cultured ORNs without a significant decrease in viability or the expression of stemness markers for ten days. Physiological characteristics of the ORNs were verified by monitoring intracellular calcium concentration upon odorant mixture stimulation; response upon odorant stimulation were observed at least for ten days in these cultivated ORNs differentiated from spheroids. Coupling ORNs with multi electrode array (MEA) enabled the detection and discrimination of odorants by analyzing the electrical signal patterns generated following odorant stimulation. Taken together, the ORN spheroid culture process is a promising technique for the development of a bioelectronic nose and high-throughput odorant screening device.

Keywords: Cell-based biosensor; Micro electrode array; Olfactory receptor neuron; Recombinant protein; Spheroid culture.