Contemporary regenerative therapies have introduced stem-like cells to replace damaged neurons in the visual system by recapitulating critical processes of eye development. The collective migration of neural stem cells is fundamental to retinogenesis and has been exceptionally well-studied using the fruit fly model of Drosophila Melanogaster. However, the migratory behavior of its retinal neuroblasts (RNBs) has been surprisingly understudied, despite being critical to retinal development in this invertebrate model. The current project developed a new microfluidic system to examine the collective migration of RNBs extracted from the developing visual system of Drosophila as a model for the collective motile processes of replacement neural stem cells. The system scales with the microstructure of the Drosophila optic stalk, which is a pre-cursor to the optic nerve, to produce signaling fields spatially comparable to in vivo RNB stimuli. Experiments used the micro-optic stalk system, or μOS, to demonstrate the preferred sizing and directional migration of collective, motile RNB groups in response to changes in exogenous concentrations of fibroblast growth factor (FGF), which is a key factor in development. Our data highlight the importance of cell-to-cell contacts in enabling cell cohesion during collective RNB migration and point to the unexplored synergy of invertebrate cell study and microfluidic platforms to advance regenerative strategies.
Keywords: chemotaxis; development; drosophila; fibroblast growth factor; stem cells.