Research Center Jülich, Institute of Thin Films and Interfaces, D-52425 Jülich, Germany
Due to a number of advances in cell and tissue culture in combination with more sensitive methods to transduce biological signals, it has become increasingly feasible to detect unknown toxicity or pharmacological effects by using cells or tissues which are electrically coupled to microfabricated microelectrode arrays (MEAs) or field-effect transistors (FETs). In order to identify the contributions of the various cell signals we have investigated the coupling of cardiac myocytes, neuroblastoma cells, genetically modified cells and randomly migrating neurons from rat explant brain stem slices with field-effect-transistors (FET).
On the other side such systems can also be used to study the very basics of distributed information processing by interfacing cultured neuronal networks with microelectronic devices. In contrast to the totally random network structure which is grown on a homogeneous substrate we are more interested in the formation and characterization of small well defined network architectures. By using the so-called micro-contact-printing (µCP) technique we are able to manipulate the adhesion sites of individual neurons and control the direction and outgrowth of dendrites and axons. Rat cortical neurons grown on these pattern formed simple neuronal circuits containing chemical synapses, which was shown by patch-clamp measurements.