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Int J Dev Neurosci. 1990;8(2):143-50.

In vitro screening for anticonvulsant-induced teratogenesis in neural primary cultures and cell lines.

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Department of Pharmacology, University College, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland.


To establish inherent potential for the induction of neural tube defects the ability of selected anticonvulsant agents to interfere with cell division has been established in vitro using an antiproliferative assay in clonal cell lines and a cytotoxicity assay using primary cultures of cerebral cortex neurons at different stages of development. In order to evaluate the relative toxicities of these agents their in vitro effects were determined at 2-3 times the plasma therapeutic level. By these procedures valproate and the benzodiazepines, diazepam and clonazepam, exerted a potent antiproliferative action which could not be attributed to increased cytotoxicity. In contrast phenytoin was markedly cytotoxic but was without an antiproliferative action. This cytotoxicity was most pronounced during the periods of extensive fibre outgrowth. When compared to epidemiological and animal study data, agents which inhibited cell proliferation within twice therapeutic concentration were consistently associated with major neural tube malformations. However phenytoin, found to be positive in the cell cytotoxicity assay, is not associated with neural tube malformations but rather is primarily associated with mental retardation. Thus assessment of antiproliferative activity of anticonvulsant drugs may be one criterion for identification of teratogenic potential during neurulation.

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