You Jung Kang1,2, Yen N. Diep1,2,3, Minh Tran1,2,3, Van Thi Ai Tran1,2, Ghuncha Ambrin 4, Huyen Ngo1,2,3 & Hansang Cho1,2,3
1Institute of Quantum Biophysics, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, Republic of Korea.
2Department of Biophysics, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, Republic of Korea.
3Department of Intelligent Precision Healthcare Convergence, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon, Republic of Korea.
4Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA.
Corresponding author : Correspondence to Hansang Cho
Neuroinflammation has either beneficial or detrimental effects, depending on risk factors and neuron-glia interactions in neurological disorders. However, studying neuroinflammation has been challenging due to the complexity of cell-cell interactions and lack of physio-pathologically relevant neuroinflammatory models. Here, we describe our three-dimensional microfluidic multicellular human neural culture model, referred to as a 'brain-on-a-chip' (BoC). This elucidates neuron-glia interactions in a controlled manner and recapitulates pathological signatures of the major neurological disorders: dementia, brain tumor and brain edema. This platform includes a chemotaxis module offering a week-long, stable chemo-gradient compared with the few hours in other chemotaxis models. Additionally, compared with conventional brain models cultured with mixed phenotypes of microglia, our BoC can separate the disease-associated microglia out of heterogeneous population and allow selective neuro-glial engagement in three dimensions. This provides benefits of interpreting the neuro-glia interactions while revealing that the prominent activation of innate immune cells is the risk factor leading to synaptic impairment and neuronal loss, validated in our BoC models of disorders. This protocol describes how to fabricate and implement our human BoC, manipulate in real time and perform end-point analyses. It takes 2 d to set up the device and cell preparations, 1-9 weeks to develop brain models under disease conditions and 2-3 d to carry out analyses. This protocol requires at least 1 month training for researchers with basic molecular biology techniques. Taken together, our human BoCs serve as reliable and valuable platforms to investigate pathological mechanisms involving neuroinflammation and to assess therapeutic strategies modulating neuroinflammation in neurological disorders.