Micro- and nano-technologies to probe the mechano-biology of the brain
Biomechanical forces have been demonstrated to influence a plethora of neuronal functions across scales including gene expression, mechano-sensitive ion channels, neurite outgrowth and folding of the cortices in the brain. However, the detailed roles biomechanical forces may play in brain development and disorders has seen limited study, partly due to a lack of effective methods to probe the mechano-biology of the brain. Current techniques to apply biomechanical forces on neurons often suffer from low throughput and poor spatiotemporal resolution. On the other hand, newly developed micro- and nano-technologies can overcome these aforementioned limitations and offer advantages such as lower cost and possibility of non-invasive control of neuronal circuits. This review compares the range of conventional, micro- and nano-technological techniques that have been developed and how they have been or can be used to understand the effect of biomechanical forces on neuronal development and homeostasis.