We describe the integrated use of pulsed laser microbeam irradiation and microfluidic cell culture methods to examine the dynamics of axonal injury and regeneration in vitro. Microfabrication methods are used to place high purity dissociated central nervous system neurons in specific regions that allow the axons to interact with permissive and inhibitory substrates. Acute injury to neuron bundles is produced via the delivery of single 180 ps duration, λ = 532 nm laser pulses. Laser pulse energies of 400 nJ and 800 nJ produce partial and complete transection of the axons, respectively, resulting in elliptical lesions 25 μm and 50 μm in size. The dynamics of the resulting degeneration and regrowth of proximal and distal axonal segments are examined for up to 8 h using time-lapse microscopy. We find the proximal and distal dieback distances from the site of laser microbeam irradiation to be roughly equal for both partial and complete transection of the axons. In addition, distinct growth cones emerge from the proximal neurite segments within 1-2 h post-injury, followed by a uniform front of regenerating axons that originate from the proximal segment and traverse the injury site within 8 h. We also examine the use of EGTA to chelate the extracellular calcium and potentially reduce the severity of the axonal degeneration following injury. While we find the addition of EGTA to reduce the severity of the initial dieback, it also hampers neurite repair and interferes with the formation of neuronal growth cones to traverse the injury site. This integrated use of laser microbeam dissection within a micropatterned cell culture system to produce precise zones of neuronal injury shows potential for high-throughput screening of agents to promote neuronal regeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering