Methodology for biomimetic chemical neuromodulation of rat retinas with the neurotransmitter glutamate in vitro

Corey M. Rountree, John B. Troy, Laxman Saggere*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Photoreceptor degenerative diseases cause irreparable blindness through the progressive loss of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Retinal prostheses are an emerging treatment for photoreceptor degenerative diseases that seek to restore vision by artificially stimulating the surviving retinal neurons in the hope of eliciting comprehensible visual perception in patients. Current retinal prostheses have demonstrated success in restoring limited vision to patients using an array of electrodes to electrically stimulate the retina but face substantial physical barriers in restoring high acuity, natural vision to patients. Chemical neurostimulation using native neurotransmitters is a biomimetic alternative to electrical stimulation and could bypass the fundamental limitations associated with retinal prostheses using electrical neurostimulation. Specifically, chemical neurostimulation has the potential to restore more natural vision with comparable or better visual acuities to patients by injecting very small quantities of neurotransmitters, the same natural agents of communication used by retinal chemical synapses, at much finer resolution than current electrical prostheses. However, as a relatively unexplored stimulation paradigm, there is no established protocol for achieving chemical stimulation of the retina in vitro. The purpose of this work is to provide a detailed framework for accomplishing chemical stimulation of the retina for investigators who wish to study the potential of chemical neuromodulation of the retina or similar neural tissues in vitro. In this work, we describe the experimental setup and methodology for eliciting retinal ganglion cell (RGC) spike responses similar to visual light responses in wild-type and photoreceptor-degenerated wholemount rat retinas by injecting controlled volumes of the neurotransmitter glutamate into the subretinal space using glass micropipettes and a custom multiport microfluidic device. This methodology and protocol are general enough to be adapted for neuromodulation using other neurotransmitters or even other neural tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere56645
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number130
StatePublished - Dec 19 2017


  • Artificial neurostimulation
  • Artificial synapse chip
  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical stimulation
  • Chemical synapse
  • Glutamate
  • Issue 130
  • Multielectrode array
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neurotransmitter
  • Photoreceptor degeneration
  • Retina
  • Retinal prosthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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