Detection of Pathological Markers of Neurodegenerative Diseases following Microfluidic Direct Conversion of Patient Fibroblasts into Neurons

Cristiana Mollinari, Chiara De Dominicis, Leonardo Lupacchini, Luigi Sansone, Davide Caprini, Carlo Massimo Casciola, Ying Wang, Jian Zhao, Massimo Fini, Matteo Russo, Enrico Garaci, Daniela Merlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are clinically diagnosed using neuropsychological and cognitive tests, expensive neuroimaging-based approaches (MRI and PET) and invasive and time-consuming lumbar puncture for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sample collection to detect biomarkers. Thus, a rapid, simple and cost-effective approach to more easily access fluids and tissues is in great need. Here, we exploit the chemical direct reprogramming of patient skin fibroblasts into neurons (chemically induced neurons, ciNs) as a novel strategy for the rapid detection of different pathological markers of neurodegenerative diseases. We found that FAD fibroblasts have a reduced efficiency of reprogramming, and converted ciNs show a less complex neuronal network. In addition, ciNs from patients show misfolded protein accumu-lation and mitochondria ultrastructural abnormalities, biomarkers commonly associated with neu-rodegeneration. Moreover, for the first time, we show that microfluidic technology, in combination with chemical reprogramming, enables on-chip examination of disease pathological processes and may have important applications in diagnosis. In conclusion, ciNs on microfluidic devices represent a small-scale, non-invasive and cost-effective high-throughput tool for protein misfolding disease diagnosis and may be useful for new biomarker discovery, disease mechanism studies and design of personalised therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2147
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2022


  • Biomarkers
  • Induced neurons
  • Microfluidics
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Transdifferentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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