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Understanding interactions between cells and nanopatterned surfaces

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Neuronal nanoimprints

Understanding neuronal signalling is essential for treating neurodegenerative diseases. The goal of the NANOSCALE project was to explore interactions between stem cells, neurons, neuronal networks and surfaces with microelectrode arrays attached to the in vitro cultivated neurons.

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Signalling between dissociated neuronal networks does not seem to change or diminish the character of its pharmacological response in comparison to in vivo models. To study neuronal signalling, neuronal cultures are connected to a set of microelectrodes that record tiny changes in electrical current. A set of microelectrode arrays is capable of recording cellular interaction on the molecular level. The aim of the 'Understanding interactions between cells and nanopatterned surfaces' (NANOSCALE) consortium was to study neuronal interactions via microelectrode arrays attached to an exact replica of the neuronal surface in vitro. Project researchers duplicated neuronal tissue via photo nanoimprint lithography that fully preserves cellular signalling and its three-dimensional (3D) structure. They transferred cultured tissue on the microelectrode array and recorded cellular currents. The scientists studied electrical signalling correlating with the release of secretory vesicles out of the cell membrane into the extracellular space. Specific factors were identified that govern stability of the plasma membrane and regulate secretion processes. Axonal growth via high resolution optical microscopy was also investigated. The researchers detected dendrites, branched projections of a neuron, that communicate with adjacent neurons and respond to extracellular stimuli. Thus, the nanoimprinting method allowed them to monitor neuronal growth and cellular motility in vitro. The combination of nanoimprinting with microelectrode recording could be an important step in the development of a neural–computer interface. This technology is equally important for both basic research and industry to study neuronal networks.

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