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Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2011 Aug;31(6):835-46. doi: 10.1007/s10571-011-9673-6. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Functional identification of cell phenotypes differentiating from mice retinal neurospheres using single cell calcium imaging.

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Neuroprotection and Neurogenesis in Brain Repair, Center for Neurosciences and Cell Biology of Coimbra, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, 3004-504 Coimbra, Portugal.


Degeneration of neural retina causes vision impairment and can lead to blindness. Neural stem and progenitor cells might be used as a tool directed to regenerative medicine of the retina. Here, we describe a novel platform for cell phenotype-specific drug discovery and screening of proneurogenic factors, able to boost differentiation of neural retinal progenitor cells. By using single cell calcium imaging (SCCI) and a rational-based stimulation protocol, a diversity of cells emerging from differentiated retinal neurosphere cultures were identified. Exposure of retinal progenitor cultures to KCl or to α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA) stimulated Ca(2+) transients in microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP-2) positive neurons. Doublecortin (DCX) and polysialated neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM) positive neuroblasts were distinguished from differentiated neurons on the basis of their response to muscimol. Ca(2+) fluxes in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) or glutamine synthetase (GS) positive cells were induced by ATP. To validate the platform, neurospheres were treated with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (proneurogenic) or ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) (gliogenic factor). BDNF increased the percentage of differentiated cells expressing Tuj-1 sensitive to KCl or AMPA and reduced the population of cells responding to muscimol. CNTF exposure resulted in a higher number of cells expressing GFAP responding to ATP. All together, our data may open new perspectives for cell type-specific discovery of drug targets and screening of novel proneurogenic factors to boost differentiation of neural retina cells to treat degenerative retinal diseases.

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