Electrical stimulation of cells and tissues for therapeutic benefit is a well-established method. Although animal studies can emulate the complexity of an organism’s physiology, lab-on-a-chip platforms provide a suitable primary model for follow-up animal studies. Thus, inexpensive and easy-to-use platforms for in vitro human cell studies are required. In the present study, we designed a micro-electrical impulse (micro-EI)-on-a-chip (micro-EI-chip), which can precisely control electron density and adjust the frequency based on a micro-EI. The micro-EI-chip can stimulate cells at various micro-EI densities (0–500 mV/mm) and frequencies (0–300 Hz), which enables multiple co-culture of different cell types with or without electrical stimulation. As a proof-of-concept study, a model involving degenerative inflamed human annulus fibrosus (hAF) cells was established in vitro and the effects of micro-EI on inflamed hAF cells were evaluated using the micro-EI-chip. Stimulation of the cells (150 mV/mm at 200 Hz) inhibited the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and downregulated the activities of extracellular matrix-modifying enzymes and matrix metalloproteinase-1. These results show that micro-EI stimulation could affect degenerative diseases based on inflammation, implicating the micro-EI-chip as being useful for basic research of electroceuticals.
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