Neuron and astrocyte aggregation and sorting

Aggregation and self-sorting of cells in three dimensional cultures have been described for non-neuronal cells. Despite increased interest in engineered neural tissues for treating brain injury or for modeling neurological disorders in vitro, little data is available on collective cell movements in neuronal aggregates. Migration and sorting of cells may alter these constructs’ morphology and, therefore, the function of their neural circuitry. In this work, linear, adhered rat and human 3D neuronal-astrocyte cultures were developed to enable the study of aggregation and sorting of these cells. An in silico model of the contraction, clustering, and cell sorting in the 3D cultures was also developed. Experiments and computational modeling showed that aggregation was mainly a neuron mediated process, and formation of astrocyte-rich sheaths in 3D cultures depended on differential attraction between neurons and astrocytes.

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Fig: Workflow for creating linear 3D cultures.

In silico model predicted formation of self-assembled neuronal layers in disk-shaped 3D cultures. Neuronal activity patterns were found to correlate with local morphological differences. This model of neuronal and astrocyte aggregation and sorting may benefit future design of neuronal constructs.

Hasan, M.F., Berdichevsky, Y. Neuron and astrocyte aggregation and sorting in three-dimensional neuronal constructs. Commun Biol 4,587 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02104-2

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