Microfluidic systems for stem cell-based neural tissue engineering
Neural tissue engineering aims at developing novel approaches for the treatment of diseases of the nervous system, by providing a permissive environment for the growth and differentiation of neural cells. Three-dimensional (3D) cell culture systems provide a closer biomimetic environment, and promote better cell differentiation and improved cell function, than could be achieved by conventional two-dimensional (2D) culture systems. With the recent advances in the discovery and introduction of different types of stem cells for tissue engineering, microfluidic platforms have provided an improved microenvironment for the 3D-culture of stem cells. Microfluidic systems can provide more precise control over the spatiotemporal distribution of chemical and physical cues at the cellular level compared to traditional systems. Various microsystems have been designed and fabricated for the purpose of neural tissue engineering. Enhanced neural migration and differentiation, and monitoring of these processes, as well as understanding the behavior of stem cells and their microenvironment have been obtained through application of different microfluidic-based stem cell culture and tissue engineering techniques. As the technology advances it may be possible to construct a “brain-on-a-chip”. In this review, we describe the basics of stem cells and tissue engineering as well as microfluidics-based tissue engineering approaches. We review recent testing of various microfluidic approaches for stem cell-based neural tissue engineering.