PloS one

Maintenance and neuronal cell differentiation of neural stem cells C17.2 correlated to medium availability sets design criteria in microfluidic systems.

PMID 25310508


Neural stem cells (NSCs) play an important role in developing potential cell-based therapeutics for neurodegenerative disease. Microfluidics has proven a powerful tool in mechanistic studies of NSC differentiation. However, NSCs are prone to differentiate when the nutrients are limited, which occurs unfavorable by fast medium consumption in miniaturized culture environment. For mechanistic studies of NSCs in microfluidics, it is vital that neuronal cell differentiation is triggered by controlled factors only. Thus, we studied the correlation between available cell medium and spontaneous neuronal cell differentiation of C17.2 NSCs in standard culture medium, and proposed the necessary microfluidic design criteria to prevent undesirable cell phenotype changes. A series of microchannels with specific geometric parameters were designed to provide different amount of medium to the cells over time. A medium factor (MF, defined as the volume of stem cell culture medium divided by total number of cells at seeding and number of hours between medium replacement) successfully correlated the amount of medium available to each cell averaged over time to neuronal cell differentiation. MF smaller than 8.3×10(4) µm3/cell⋅hour produced significant neuronal cell differentiation marked by cell morphological change and significantly more cells with positive β-tubulin-III and MAP2 staining than the control. When MF was equal or greater than 8.3×10(4) µm3/cell⋅hour, minimal spontaneous neuronal cell differentiation happened relative to the control. MF had minimal relation with the average neurite length. MFs can be controlled easily to maintain the stem cell status of C17.2 NSCs or to induce spontaneous neuronal cell differentiation in standard stem cell culture medium. This finding is useful in designing microfluidic culture platforms for controllable NSC maintenance and differentiation. This study also offers insight about consumption rate of serum molecules involved in maintaining the stemness of NSCs.