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Three-dimensional (3D) cell cultures have recently gained popularity in the biomedical sciences because of their similarity to the in vivo environment. SH-SY5Y cells, which are neuronal cells and are commonly used to investigate neurodegenerative diseases, have particularly been reported to be differentiated as neuron-like cells expressing neuron-specific markers of mature neurons in static 3D culture environments when compared to static 2D environments, and those in perfusion environments have not yet been investigated. Microfluidic technology has provided perfusion environment which has more similarity to in vivo through mimicking vascular transportation of nutrients, but air bubbles entering into microchannels drastically increase instability of the flow. Furthermore, static incubation commonly used is incompatible with perfusion setup due to its air conditions, which is a critical huddle to the biologists. In the present study, we developed a novel microfluidic perfusion 3D cell culture system that overcomes the disturbance from air bubbles and intuitionally sets the incubation with the perfusion 3D culture. The system is capable of generating concentration gradients between 5 and 95% and air bubble traps were included to increase stability during incubation by collecting air bubbles. To evaluate the perfusion 3D culture, SH-SY5Y differentiation was examined in static 2D, static 3D, and perfusion 3D cultures. Our system supported significantly increased clustering of SH-SY5Y compared to static 2D and 3D methods, as well as increasing neurite growth rate. This novel system therefore supports differentiation of SH-SY5Y and can be used to more accurately model the in vivo environment during cell culture experiments.

Original publication




Journal article


Biomed Microdevices

Publication Date





3D cell culture, Microfluidic system, Neuronal differentiation, Perfusion, SH-SY5Y cells, Humans, Microfluidics, Neuroblastoma, Perfusion, Cell Culture Techniques, Three Dimensional, Cell Differentiation