Towards micro electrode implants: In vitro guidance of rat spinal cord neurites through polyimide sieves by Schwann cells
Our goal is to develop biohybrid neural microprobe implants with sieve electrodes for external stimulation of co-implanted neurons whose axons penetrate through the holes of electrodes and innervate host targets such as denervated muscle fibers. For evaluation of implants, potential scar formation was imitated in fibroblast-spinal cord co-cultures. In vitro neurite extension through flexible 10-µm thick polyimide sieves was inhibited by co-cultured fibroblasts. In contrast, the neurite penetration of sieves could be greatly stimulated by oriented exposure to Schwann cells. To our knowledge this is the first direct proof that Schwann cells display a guidance effect on spinal cord neurons in vitro. The results pave the way for novel biohybrid neuro-implants and provide means to circumvent the obstacle of inhibitory scar formation.