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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Aug;90(2):1324-32.

Problem of dural scarring in recording from awake, behaving monkeys: a solution using 5-fluorouracil.

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Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, University College London, United Kingdom.


In studies using single neuron recordings from awake, behaving monkeys, it is necessary to make repeated transdural penetrations using fragile microelectrodes. The tough connective tissue that accumulates after the dura mater is first exposed is often problematic because of electrode breakage and the mechanical stress to the underlying brain tissue caused by excessive dimpling during penetration. We describe the use of an antimitotic compound, 5-fluorouracil (5FU) to control the growth of this connective tissue. 5FU can be safely applied for short periods to the exposed dural tissue on a regular basis provided that it is thoroughly rinsed after application. The advantages of using 5FU are fourfold: first, it depresses fibroblast division and minimizes dural growth and scar tissue formation so that penetrations are easier with less electrode damage or breakage. Second, the frequency of surgical procedures required to remove this tissue are greatly reduced, which benefits both the experiment animal and the experiment. Third, 5FU reduces vascularization of the tissue so that its removal is far easier and without significant blood loss. Finally, 5FU seems to inhibit bacterial infections within the recording chamber. In macaque motor cortex, we performed a quantitative study of electrophysiological data recorded from monkeys with and without 5FU treatment. No significant deleterious side effects produced by 5FU could be detected. Likewise, histological examination of cortical tissue underlying treated dura did not reveal any obvious signs of damage by 5FU. We recommend this approach, with the appropriate safety precautions, to all those neurophysiologists using transdural microelectrode methods in chronically prepared experimental animals. It is also possible that this technique may be useful in other situations where there is dural scarring after surgical intervention or injury.

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