Micromachines (Jan 2021)

Electrophysiology Read-Out Tools for Brain-on-Chip Biotechnology

  • Csaba Forro,
  • Davide Caron,
  • Gian Nicola Angotzi,
  • Vincenzo Gallo,
  • Luca Berdondini,
  • Francesca Santoro,
  • Gemma Palazzolo,
  • Gabriella Panuccio

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 2
p. 124


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Brain-on-Chip (BoC) biotechnology is emerging as a promising tool for biomedical and pharmaceutical research applied to the neurosciences. At the convergence between lab-on-chip and cell biology, BoC couples in vitro three-dimensional brain-like systems to an engineered microfluidics platform designed to provide an in vivo-like extrinsic microenvironment with the aim of replicating tissue- or organ-level physiological functions. BoC therefore offers the advantage of an in vitro reproduction of brain structures that is more faithful to the native correlate than what is obtained with conventional cell culture techniques. As brain function ultimately results in the generation of electrical signals, electrophysiology techniques are paramount for studying brain activity in health and disease. However, as BoC is still in its infancy, the availability of combined BoC–electrophysiology platforms is still limited. Here, we summarize the available biological substrates for BoC, starting with a historical perspective. We then describe the available tools enabling BoC electrophysiology studies, detailing their fabrication process and technical features, along with their advantages and limitations. We discuss the current and future applications of BoC electrophysiology, also expanding to complementary approaches. We conclude with an evaluation of the potential translational applications and prospective technology developments.