brain slices

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The Use of In Vivo, Ex Vivo, In Vitro, Computational Models and Volunteer Studies in Vision Research and Therapy, and Their Contribution to the Three Rs

Robert D. Combes and Atul B. Shah

Much is known about mammalian vision, and considerable progress has been achieved in treating many vision disorders, especially those due to changes in the eye, by using various therapeutic methods, including stem cell and gene therapy. While cells and tissues from the main parts of the eye and the visual cortex (VC) can be maintained in culture, and many computer models exist, the current non-animal approaches are severely limiting in the study of visual perception and retinotopic imaging. Some of the early studies with cats and non-human primates (NHPs) are controversial for animal welfare reasons and are of questionable clinical relevance, particularly with respect to the treatment of amblyopia. More recently, the UK Home Office records have shown that attention is now more focused on rodents, especially the mouse. This is likely to be due to the perceived need for genetically-altered animals, rather than to knowledge of the similarities and differences of vision in cats, NHPs and rodents, and the fact that the same techniques can be used for all of the species. We discuss the advantages and limitations of animal and non-animal methods for vision research, and assess their relative contributions to basic knowledge and clinical practice, as well as outlining the opportunities they offer for implementing the principles of the Three Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement).

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Changes in Extracellular Action Potential Detect Kainic Acid and Trimethyltin Toxicity in Hippocampal Slice Preparations Earlier than do MAP2 Density Measurements

Raffaella Melani, Renata Rebaudo, Jens Noraberg, Jens Zimmer and Maurizio Balestrino

In vitro electrophysiological techniques for the assessment of neurotoxicity could have several advantages over other methods in current use, including the ability to detect damage at a very early stage, and could further assist in replacing animal experimentation in vivo. We investigated how an electrophysiological parameter, the extracellularly-recorded compound action potential (“population spike”, PS) could be used as a marker of in vitro neurotoxicity in the case of two well-known toxic compounds, kainic acid (KA) and trimethyltin (TMT). We compared the use of this electrophysiological endpoint with changes in immunoreactivity for microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), a standard histological test for neurotoxicity. We found that both toxic compounds reliably caused disappearance of the PS, and that such disappearance occurred after only 1 hour of exposure to the drug. By contrast, densitometric measurements of MAP2 immunoreactivity were unaffected by both KA and TMT after such a short exposure time. We conclude that, in the case of KA and TMT, the extracellular PS was abolished at a very early time-point, when MAP2 immunoreactivity levels were still comparable to those of the untreated controls. Electrophysiology could be a reliable and early indicator of neurotoxicity, which could improve our ability to test for neurotoxicity in vitro, thus further replacing the need for in vivo experimentation.
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The Use of Organotypic Hippocampal Slice Cultures to Evaluate Protection by Non-competitive NMDA Receptor Antagonists Against Excitotoxicity

Avi Ring, Rita Tanso and Jens Noraberg

There is great interest in testing neuroprotectants which inhibit the neurodegeneration that results from excessive activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. As an alternative to in vivo testing in animal models, we demonstrate here the use of a complex in vitro model to compare the efficacy and toxicity of NMDA receptor inhibitors. Organotypic hippocampal slice cultures were used to compare the effectiveness of the Alzheimer’s disease drug, memantine, the Parkinson’s disease drug, procyclidine, and the novel neuroprotectant, gacyclidine (GK11), against NMDA-induced toxicity. All three drugs are non-competitive NMDA receptor open-channel blockers that inhibit excitotoxic injury, and their neuroprotective capacities have been extensively investigated in vivo in animal models. They have also been evaluated as potential countermeasure agents against organophosphate poisoning. Quantitative densitometric image analysis of propidium iodide uptake in hippocampal regions CA1, CA3 and DG, showed that, after exposure to 10μM NMDA for 24 hours, GK11 was the most potent of the three drugs, with an IC50 of about 50nM and complete protection at 250nM. When applied at high doses, GK11 was still the more potent neuroprotectant, and also the least cytotoxic. These findings are consistent with those from in vivo tests in rodents. We conclude that the slice culture model provides valuable pre-clinical data, and that applying the model to the screening of neuroprotectants might significantly limit the use of in vivo tests in animals
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