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Vendredi 5 décembre à 14h30,
Salle des séminaires, Bât A

Oratrice : Caterina TOMBA
"Primary brain cells in in vitro controlled microenvironments"


The complex structure of the brain is explored by various methods, such as neurophysiology and cognitive neuroscience. This exploration occurs at different scales, from the observation of this organ as a whole entity to molecules involved in biological processes. Here, we propose a study at the cellular scale that focuses on two building elements of brain : neurons and glial cells. Our approach reaches biophysics field for two main reasons : tools that are used and the physical approach to the issues.
The originality of our work is to keep close to the in vivo by using primary brain cells in in vitro systems, where chemical and physical environments are controlled at micrometric scale. Microelectronic tools are employed to provide a reliable control of the physical and chemical cellular environment. This work focuses on two aspects of brain cell biology : neuronal polarization and glial cell sensitivity to mechanical properties of their environment. As an example, these two issues are involved in injured brains. The first is crucial for the directionality of the transmission of electrical and chemical signals and is associated to a break of symmetry in neuron morphology. The second occurs in recolonization mechanisms of lesions, whose mechanical properties are impaired. During this thesis, quantitative studies are performed on these two cell types, focusing on their growth and their response to geometrical and mechanical constraints. The final aim is to elucidate some molecular mechanisms underlying changes of the cellular structure, and therefore of the cytoskeleton.
A significant outcome of this work is the control of the neuronal polarization by a simple control of cell morphology. This result opens the possibility to develop controlled neural architectures in vitro with a single cell precision.

Keywords : Primary brain cells, hippocampal neurons, neuronal polarization, cortical glial cells, chemical and mechanical pattering, cellular mechanics, mechanosensitivity, cytoskeleton, biophysics

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