The patch-clamp technique is generally accepted as the gold standard for studying ion channel activity allowing investigators to either "clamp" membrane voltage and directly measure transmembrane currents through ion channels, or to passively monitor spontaneously occurring intracellular voltage oscillations. However, this resulting high information content comes at a price. The technique is labor-intensive and requires highly trained personnel and expensive equipment. This seriously limits its application as an interrogation tool for drug development. Patch-clamp chips have been developed in the last decade to overcome the tedious manipulations associated with the use of glass pipettes in conventional patch-clamp experiments. In this chapter, we describe some of the main materials and fabrication protocols that have been developed to date for the production of patch-clamp chips. We also present the concept of a patch-clamp chip array providing high resolution patch-clamp recordings from individual cells at multiple sites in a network of communicating neurons. On this chip, the neurons are aligned with the aperture-probes using chemical patterning. In the discussion we review the potential use of this technology for pharmaceutical assays, neuronal physiology and synaptic plasticity studies.
Methods in Molecular Biology1183 (20 June 2014): 93–113.