Understanding the mechanisms that govern nervous tissues function remains a challenge. In vitro two-dimensional (2D) cell culture systems provide a simplistic platform to evaluate systematic investigations but often result in unreliable responses that cannot be translated to pathophysiological settings. Recently, microplatforms have emerged to provide a better approximation of the in vivo scenario with better control over the microenvironment, stimuli and structure. Advances in biomaterials enable the construction of three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds, which combined with microfabrication, allow enhanced biomimicry through precise control of the architecture, cell positioning, fluid flows and electrochemical stimuli. This manuscript reviews, compares and contrasts advances in nervous tissues-on-a-chip models and their applications in neural physiology and disease. Microplatforms used for neuro-glia interactions, neuromuscular junctions (NMJs), blood-brain barrier (BBB) and studies on brain cancer, metastasis and neurodegenerative diseases are addressed. Finally, we highlight challenges that can be addressed with interdisciplinary efforts to achieve a higher degree of biomimicry. Nervous tissue microplatforms provide a powerful tool that is destined to provide a better understanding of neural health and disease.
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