We are attempting to recreate a stretch reflex circuit on a patterned Bio-MEMS (bio-microelectromechanical systems) chip with deflecting micro-cantilevers. The first steps to recreate this system is to be able to grow individual components of the circuit (sensory neuron, motoneuron, skeletal muscle, and muscle spindle) on a patternable, synthetic substrate coating the MEMS device. Sensory neurons represent the afferent portion of the stretch reflex arc and also play a significant role in transmitting the signal from the muscle spindle to the spinal cord motoneurons. We have utilized a synthetic silane substrate N-1[3-(trimethoxysilyl) propyl) diethylenetriamine (DETA) on which to grow and pattern the cells. DETA forms a self-assembled monolayer on a variety of silicon substrates, including glass, and can be patterned using photolithography. In this paper, we have evaluated the growth of sensory neurons on this synthetic silane substrate. We have investigated the immunocytochemical and electrophysiological properties of the sensory neurons on DETA and compared the resultant properties with a biological control substrate (ornithine/laminin). Immunocytochemical studies revealed the survival and growth of all three subtypes of sensory neurons: trkA, trkB, and trkC on both surfaces. Furthermore, whole-cell patch clamp recordings were used to study the electrophysiological properties of the sensory neurons on the two surfaces. There were no significant differences in the electrical properties of the neurons grown on either surface. This is the first study analyzing the immunocytochemical and electrophysiological properties of sensory neurons grown long-term in a completely defined environment and on a nonbiological substrate.
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