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Brain Res Bull. 2005 Dec 30;68(3):140-9. Epub 2005 Sep 7.

Marmoset monkey models of Parkinson's disease: which model, when and why?

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Department of Experimental Psychology, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease, with clinical features of tremor, muscular rigidity and akinesia, occurring as a result of midbrain dopamine loss. The search for treatments has relied heavily on animal models of the disorder. The use of monkey models of PD plays a distinct role in the development and assessment of novel treatments. The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is a popular New World monkey used in the search for new treatments. These monkeys are easy to handle and survive well in captivity. This review examines the advantages of using marmoset monkeys in PD research and examines the different models available with reference to their use in pre-clinical assessment for novel therapeutic treatments. The most common models involve the administration of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) or 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA). Recently, selective cerebral transgenic over-expression of alpha-synuclein has also been attempted in marmosets as a potential model for PD. Each model has its advantages. The MPTP-based model in marmosets resembles the disease with regards to the neuroanatomy of neurotransmitter loss; the unilateral application of 6-OHDA allows for the assessment of more complex sensorimotor deficits due to the presence of an intact 'control' side; the over-expression of alpha-synuclein in the midbrain results in the slow onset of behavioural symptoms allowing for a pre-symptomatic time window. The appropriateness of each of these marmoset models for the assessment of treatments depends on several factors including the experimental aim of the study and whether emphasis is placed on the analysis of behavioural deficits.

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