A device for long-term perfusion, imaging, and electrical interfacing of brain tissue in vitro

Nathaniel J. Killian, Varadraj N. Vernekar, Steve M. Potter, Jelena Vukasinovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Distributed microelectrode array (MEA) recordings from consistent, viable, ≥500 μm thick tissue preparations over time periods from days to weeks may aid in studying a wide range of problems in neurobiology that require in vivo-like organotypic morphology. Existing tools for electrically interfacing with organotypic slices do not address necrosis that inevitably occurs within thick slices with limited diffusion of nutrients and gas, and limited removal of waste. We developed an integrated device that enables long-term maintenance of thick, functionally active, brain tissue models using interstitial perfusion and distributed recordings from thick sections of explanted tissue on a perforated multi-electrode array. This novel device allows for automated culturing, in situ imaging, and extracellular multi-electrode interfacing with brain slices, 3-D cell cultures, and potentially other tissue culture models. The device is economical, easy to assemble, and integrable with standard electrophysiology tools. We found that convective perfusion through the culture thickness provided a functional benefit to the preparations as firing rates were generally higher in perfused cultures compared to their respective unperfused controls. This work is a step toward the development of integrated tools for days-long experiments with more consistent, healthier, thicker, and functionally more active tissue cultures with built-in distributed electrophysiological recording and stimulation functionality. The results may be useful for the study of normal processes, pathological conditions, and drug screening strategies currently hindered by the limitations of acute (a few hours long) brain slice preparations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number135
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 31 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain slice
  • MEA
  • Neurons
  • Perforated microelectrode array
  • Three-dimensional culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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