This paper presents a circular microfluidic compartmentalized co-culture platform that can be used for central nervous system (CNS) axon myelination research. The microfluidic platform is composed of a soma compartment and an axon/glia compartment connected through arrays of axon-guiding microchannels. Myelin-producing glia, oligodendrocytes (OLs), placed in the axon/glia compartment, interact with only axons but not with neuronal somata confined to the soma compartment, reminiscent to in vivo situation where many axon fibres are myelinated by OLs at distance away from neuronal cell bodies. Primary forebrain neurons from embryonic day 16–18 rats were cultured inside the soma compartment for two weeks to allow them to mature and form extensive axon networks. OL progenitors, isolated from postnatal day 1-2 rat brains, were then added to the axon/glia compartment and co-cultured with neurons for an additional two weeks. The microdevice showed fluidic isolation between the two compartments and successfully isolated neuronal cell bodies and dendrites from axons growing through the arrays of axon-guiding microchannels into the axon/glia compartment. The circular co-culture device developed here showed excellent cell loading characteristics where significant numbers of cells were positioned near the axon-guiding microchannels. This significantly increased the probability of axons crossing these microchannels as demonstrated by the more than 51 % of the area of the axon/glia compartment covered with axons two weeks after cell seeding. OL progenitors co-cultured with axons inside the axon/glia compartment successfully differentiated into mature OLs. These results indicate that this device can be used as an excellent in vitro co-culture platform for studying localized axon-glia interaction and signalling.
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