Analytical Chemistry

Overflow microfluidic networks for open and closed cell cultures on chip

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Microfluidics have a huge potential in biomedical research, in particular for studying interactions among cell populations that are involved in complex diseases. Here, we present "overflow" microfluidic networks (oMFNs) for depositing, culturing, and studying cell populations, which are plated in a few microliters of cell suspensions in one or several open cell chambers inside the chip and subsequently cultured for several days in vitro (DIV). After the cells have developed their phenotype, the oMFN is closed with a lid bearing microfluidic connections. The salient features of the chips are (1) overflow zones around the cell chambers for drawing excess liquid by capillarity from the chamber during sealing the oMFN with the lid, (2) flow paths from peripheral pumps to cell chambers and between cell chambers for interactive flow control, (3) transparent cell chambers coated with cell adhesion molecules, and (4) the possibility to remove the lid for staining and visualizing the cells after, for example, fixation. Here, we use a two-chamber oMFN to show the activation of purinergic receptors in microglia grown in one chamber, upon release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from astrocytes that are grown in another chamber and challenged with glutamate. These data validate oMFNs as being particularly relevant for studying primary cells and dissecting the specific intercellular pathways involved in neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory brain diseases. © 2010 American Chemical Society.