Molecules (Aug 2016)

Modulation of Neural Network Activity through Single Cell Ablation: An in Vitro Model of Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery

  • Alessandro Soloperto,
  • Marta Bisio,
  • Gemma Palazzolo,
  • Michela Chiappalone,
  • Paolo Bonifazi,
  • Francesco Difato

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 21, no. 8
p. 1018


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The technological advancement of optical approaches, and the growth of their applications in neuroscience, has allowed investigations of the physio-pathology of neural networks at a single cell level. Therefore, better understanding the role of single neurons in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative conditions has resulted in a strong demand for surgical tools operating with single cell resolution. Optical systems already provide subcellular resolution to monitor and manipulate living tissues, and thus allow understanding the potentiality of surgery actuated at single cell level. In the present work, we report an in vitro experimental model of minimally invasive surgery applied on neuronal cultures expressing a genetically encoded calcium sensor. The experimental protocol entails the continuous monitoring of the network activity before and after the ablation of a single neuron, to provide a robust evaluation of the induced changes in the network activity. We report that in subpopulations of about 1000 neurons, even the ablation of a single unit produces a reduction of the overall network activity. The reported protocol represents a simple and cost effective model to study the efficacy of single-cell surgery, and it could represent a test-bed to study surgical procedures circumventing the abrupt and complete tissue removal in pathological conditions.