A three dimensional in vitro glial scar model to investigate the local strain effects from micromotion around neural implants†
Glial scar formation remains a significant barrier to the long term success of neural probes. Micromotion coupled with mechanical mismatch between the probe and tissue is believed to be a key driver of the inflammatory response. In vitro glial scar models present an intermediate step prior to conventional in vivo histology experiments as they enable cell–device interactions to be tested on a shorter timescale, with the ability to conduct broader biochemical assays. No established in vitro models have incorporated methods to assess device performance with respect to mechanical factors. In this study, we describe an in vitro glial scar model that combines high-precision linear actuators to simulate axial micromotion around neural implants with a 3D primary neural cell culture in a collagen gel. Strain field measurements were conducted to visualize the local displacement within the gel in response to micromotion. Primary brain cell cultures were found to be mechanically responsive to micromotion after one week in culture. Astrocytes, as determined by immunohistochemical staining, were found to have significantly increased in cell areas and perimeters in response to micromotion compared to static control wells. These results demonstrate the importance of micromotion when considering the chronic response to neural implants. Going forward, this model provides advantages over existing in vitro models as it will enable critical mechanical design factors of neural implants to be evaluated prior to in vivo testing.