Tissue engineered cell culture models for nervous system research

East, Emma and Phillips, James B. (2008). Tissue engineered cell culture models for nervous system research. In: Greco, Giovanni N. ed. Tissue Engineering Research Trends. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, pp. 141–160.

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The complexity of the nervous system means it is difficult to explore the role of individual cell types and their interactions under physiological conditions and during injury or disease. Whilst tissue engineering is a field traditionally dedicated to the repair or replacement of damaged tissues, it has unintentionally created a new generation of dynamic, powerful culture model systems in which cells, materials, biochemical and mechanical factors can be incorporated and controlled. Tissue engineered culture models offer an exciting opportunity to fill the gulf in nervous system research between simple cell culture systems and whole animal models. These cell culture models provide a valuable means to investigate cell biology using highly controlled environments in which parameters are easily manipulated in a high throughput and cost effective manner.
Here, we will discuss past and current applications of two-dimensional and three-dimensional tissue engineered cell culture models used for research into peripheral and central nervous system repair. These range from simple models with single cell types in defined matrices to more multifaceted models with added levels of complexity, such as multiple cells types and controlled mechanical and chemical properties. We will also consider how these models will provide a significant contribution to the development of future therapeutic approaches.

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