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Issue 2, 2008
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A microfluidics-based turning assay reveals complex growth cone responses to integrated gradients of substrate-bound ECM molecules and diffusible guidance cues

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Abstract

Neuronal growth cones contain sophisticated molecular machinery precisely regulating their migration in response to complex combinatorial gradients of diverse external cues. The details of this regulation are still largely unknown, in part due to limitations of the currently available experimental techniques. Microfluidic devices have been shown to be capable of generating complex, stable and precisely controlled chemical gradients, but their use in studying growth cone migration has been limited in part due to the effects of shear stress. Here we describe a microfluidics-based turning-assay chip designed to overcome this issue. In addition to generating precise gradients of soluble guidance cues, the chip can also fabricate complex composite gradients of diffusible and surface-bound guidance cues that mimic the conditions the growth cones realistically counter in vivo. Applying this assay to Xenopus embryonic spinal neurons, we demonstrate that the presence of a surface-bound laminin gradient can finely tune the polarity of growth cone responses (repulsion or attraction) to gradients of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), with the guidance outcome dependent on the mean BDNF concentration. The flexibility inherent in this assay holds significant potential for refinement of our understanding of nervous system development and regeneration, and can be extended to elucidate other cellular processes involving chemotaxis of shear sensitive cells.

Graphical abstract: A microfluidics-based turning assay reveals complex growth cone responses to integrated gradients of substrate-bound ECM molecules and diffusible guidance cues

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Publication details

The article was received on 11 Sep 2007, accepted on 04 Dec 2007 and first published on 04 Jan 2008


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B713945D
Citation: Lab Chip, 2008,8, 227-237
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    A microfluidics-based turning assay reveals complex growth cone responses to integrated gradients of substrate-bound ECM molecules and diffusible guidance cues

    C. Joanne Wang, X. Li, B. Lin, S. Shim, G. Ming and A. Levchenko, Lab Chip, 2008, 8, 227
    DOI: 10.1039/B713945D

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