A Device for the Graded Mechanostimulation of Cultured Neurons
Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness world-wide, affects c. 2.8 million people in the US, of which 130,000 are legally blind. Vision loss during glaucoma is due to damage to, and the eventual death of, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), neurons that carry visual information from the eye to the brain. One current theory hypothesizes that the mechanism of RGC death during glaucoma is due to changes to the local mechanical environment of the RGCs, specifically the existence of additional stresses and strains acting on the axons of the RGCs, resulting in their dysfunction. As this environment is difficult to access in vivo, little is known about the pathway from mechanical insult to RGC dysfunction.
This work presents an in vitro platform for studying the effects of physiologically relevant, axonally applied mechanical insult to neurons in culture. Design considerations are presented, and finite element studies are shown to establish proof of concept. The mold for creating the device was microfabricated in a cleanroom for use in the replica molding of the device. The process of fabricating the final device is then detailed. Initial biocompatibility assays are presented, and experiments for characterizing the function of the device are proposed.