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NEUROACT: A collaborative training program to develop multi-electrode array (MEA) platforms to understand synaptic function and treat diseases of the nervous system

Final Report Summary - NEUROACT (NEUROACT: A collaborative training program to develop multi-electrode array (MEA) platforms to understand synaptic function and treat diseases of the nervous system)

The overall GOALS of NEUROACT as an Industry-Academia Partnership have been:
1) To disseminate planar multielectrode array (MEA)-based training and expertise, which is important for biomedical research and drug discovery, to the engaged fellows and the European community.
2) To generate novel technological solutions and know-how to benefit the portfolio of its corporate partner, QWANE, in the biological, biomedical and drug discovery marketplace.

The project's MANAGEMENT and COORDINATION efforts achieved:
i) The harmonization of the technological efforts and sharing of know-how;
ii) The fostering of interactions and exchanges among partners;
iii) The concrete development of new MEA designs and measures.

NEUROACT's RESEARCH and TRAINING achievements are:
- Successful recruitment/secondment of eleven NEUROACT Fellows.
- New mathematical model-based analyses and interpretation of MEA data in (dys)functional in vitro
neuronal networks
- New technical solutions to handle computing-heavy MEA data analysis workflows by
- The design, production and testing of specialized MEAs to characterize cell-cell interactions.
- The design and production and testing of novel microfluidic handling solutions to allow long-term studies and
to facilitate application of pharmacologic agents.
- The design and testing of a user-friendly fully integrated MEA setup, including new hardware and software components.
- The establishment of tailored Technical Training and Career Development activities for
NEUROACT investigators.

The RESULTS and IMPACT of the NEUROACT project:
The NEUROACT project has provided unique multi-disciplinary research training opportunities (encompassing engineering, electrophysiology, molecular biology, cellular neuroscience, theoretical neuroscience, and advanced data analysis). Trainees have participated collectively in the
design and implementation of novel tools and platforms to advance current understanding of the molecular and microcircuit bases for nervous system function and to develop new drug screening platforms and paradigms for diseases of the nervous system. The platform for electrophysiological studies relied on the use of planar MEA substrates, for which unique recording and analysis methods and cellular model systems have been developed. This collaborative endeavour has brought together three active and highly talented partners who have proven themselves as rising leaders in their respective research fields. The exchanges between the Belgian academic group and QWANE have afforded research, development and training in advanced data analysis techniques, recording and analysis software, and novel materials for chronic neuron-interfacing electrodes. Collaboration between the academic team at the ULEIC and QWANE has yielded new research and training opportunities to advance bioarray designs, improve their molecular application and detection capabilities, and establish rapid user-friendly protocols allowing the implementation of MEA-based systems to study the roles of individual genes on complex synaptic phenotypes. The mutually beneficial diversity and complementarities of the skills brought together in this collaborative project has enabled a successful, productive and long-lasting relationship between its partners and trainees.

Importantly, this joint venture has addressed an important unfulfilled needs for basic science and drug discovery in neurobiology with far-reaching potential benefits to both European industry and health research.

As anticipated, the results of the project have:
- Advanced current understanding of the microcircuit bases for nervous system dysfunction, by
defining molecular and electrophysiological abnormalities in cellular network-based models of
human neurodegenerative diseases;
- Combined cutting-edge technologies based on planar multielectrode arrays (MEAs) to develop innovative
screening paradigms to benefit central nervous system drug discovery;
- Generated novel devices and know-how in order to consolidate QWANE’s commercial portfolio and help
position them as a leading player in the utilization of MEA technology for drug discovery
- Disseminated relevant MEA-based scientific and drug-screening training and expertise to the
European community.

Details of scientific and commercial outputs can be followed via our project website:

Queries may be addressed to :
Prof. Ruth Luthi-Carter
Dept. of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour
MSB Room 339
University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
t: +44 (0)116 252 2925