Throughout the world, traumatic brain injury (TBI), for example, as a result of motor vehicle accident, is a major cause of mortality and lifelong disability in children and young adults. Studies show that axonal pathology and degeneration can cause significant functional impairment and can precede, and sometimes cause, neuronal death in several neurological disorders including TBI, creating a compelling need to understand the mechanisms of axon degeneration. Microfluidic devices that allow manipulation of fluids in channels with typical dimensions of tens to hundreds of micrometers have emerged as a powerful platform for such studies due to their ability to isolate and direct the growth of axons. Here, we describe a new microfluidic platform that can be used to study TBI by applying very mild (0.5%) and mild (5%) stretch injury to individual cortical axons through the incorporation of microfluidic valve technology into a compartmented microfluidic-culturing device. This device is unique due to its ability to study the neuronal response to axonal stretch injury in a fluidically isolated microenvironment.
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