Student projects

Mechanosensing in Neurons

The brain is recognized as the most complex of our organs, yet it is regarded as a passive tissue from a biomechanical point of view. There are sufficient clues in experimental brain research, however, that indicate that the brain is likely to be mechanically active. This implies that the brain responds to mechanical as well as electrical stimuli. Impaired dynamics of intracranial fluid flow and pressure due to injury or disease is one of the main causes of brain damage and therewith associated death in young children and the elderly and, therefore, understanding the way in which neuronal tissue responds to mechanical stimuli could pave the way to specific (rather than symptomatic) treatment of traumatic brain injury, hydrocephalus and other intracranial disorders. The proposed project will involve the investigation of neuronal cell cultures under electrical and mechanical stimulation using a commercial multi-electrode array. For this purpose a custom made flow chamber will be designed and fitted onto this electrophysiology setup and the response of neuronal tissues to electrical stimulation under varying shear stresses will be assessed. If the hypothesis of neuronal shear stress sensing proves correct, it will fundamentally change the view of the brain as a mechanically passive organ. With this rectified understanding of brain mechanics, new opportunities for the treatment of intracranial pathologies are bound to emerge.

During the course of this project a microfluidics device compatible with the electrophysiology setup was successfully created and preliminary results indicated that neurons respond to flow conditions.


Student: Cedar Urwyler
Contact: For detailed information please contact Anastasios Marmaras, Y23 J 78, +41 44 635 50 56,, or Vartan Kurtcuoglu,, +41 44 635 50 55
Area: Experimental neuroscience
Start: 16th of February 2015
End: 22nd of May 2015
Duration: 14 weeks

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