Conventional neuronal network pattern formation techniques cannot control the arrangement of axons and dendrites because network structures must be fixed before neurite differentiation. To overcome this limitation, we developed a non-destructive stepwise microfabrication technique that can be used to alter microchannels within agarose to guide neurites during elongation. Micropatterns were formed in thin agarose layer coating of a cultivation dish using the tip of a 0.7 μ m -diameter platinum-coated glass microneedle heated by a focused 1064-nm wavelength infrared laser, which has no absorbance of water. As the size of the heat source was 0.7 μ m , which is smaller than the laser wavelength, the temperature fell to 45 ∘C within a distance of 7.0 μ m from the edge of the etched agarose microchannel. We exploited the fast temperature decay property to guide cell-to-cell connection during neuronal network cultivation. The first neurite of a hippocampal cell from a microchamber was guided to a microchannel leading to the target neuron with stepwise etching of the micrometer resolution microchannel in the agarose layer, and the elongated neurites were not damaged by the heat of etching. The results indicate the potential of this new technique for fully direction-controlled on-chip neuronal network studies.
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