In the August 3 Science Advances, researchers led by Roger Kamm from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, describe a new microfluidic device that models the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), and can serve as a platform to study NMJ degeneration in diseases such as ALS. The microfluidic device provides a more realistic in vitro model for NMJs than the typical petri-dish-based models by incorporating two important physiological features of the NMJ: a three-dimensional structure, which is created using a 3D hydrogel, and compartmentalization of the motor neurons and muscles to mimic the physical separation in the body. The system, which combines mouse embryonic stem cell-derived motor neurons and myoblast-derived muscle cells, enables tracking of muscle force, as well as control over motor neuron activity through optical excitation.
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Uzel S, Platt R, Subramanian V, Pearl TM, Rowlands CJ, Chan V, Boyer LA, So PTC, Kamm RD. Microfluidic device for the formation of optically excitable, three-dimensional, compartmentalized motor units. Science Advances. 3 Aug 2016.[Full Text].