Microdevice development for the study of axon degeneration and injury

2007 Pilot Project Read More


Principal Investigator: Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, PhD (formerly WashU Biomedical Engineering)
Co-investigators: Karen O’Malley (WashU Neuroscience), Amy Shen (formerly WashU Mechanical Engineering)


The axon of a nerve cell functions like a highway, shuttling neuronal components that are necessary for the nerve cell’s survival. An emerging idea in degenerative disorders is that a loss of axon function plays an important role in the initiation and progression of diseases such as in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or ALS. The overall goal of this research is to design and use compartmented chambers to allow the study of axon growth and function under controlled conditions. These microdevices will allow precisely controlled delivery of drugs or toxins to examine their effects on axon function. Through these studies we will gain a better understanding of factors that contribute to neurodegenerative disorders, and test potential drugs under controlled conditions to determine their effectiveness.

Grants and Awards

“Axon Targeted Microdevices for CNS Axon Transport Studies”
NIH-NINDS, R21NS067561-01 (PI, Sakiyama-Elbert)
The goal of this project is to develop novel microdevices to study the role of axon transport in neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.


Lu X, Kim-Han JS, O’Malley KL, Sakiyama-Elbert SE. A microdevice platform for visualizing mitochondrial transport in aligned dopaminergic axons. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 209(1):35-9, (2012).

Lu X, Kim-Han JS, Harmon S, Sakiyama-Elbert SE, O’Malley KL. The Parkinsonian mimetic, 6-OHDA, impairs axonal transport in dopaminergic axons. Mol Neurodegener. 3;9:17, (2014).

Updated January 2019

Hope Center Investigators

Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert

Karen O'Malley