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Nat Protoc. 2011 Sep 22;6(10):1568-77. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2011.398.

Primary culture of chick, mouse or human neural crest cells.

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Institut National de Santé et de Recherche Médicale (INSERM) U910, Université de Méditerranée Faculté de Médecine, Marseille, France.


A highly enriched population of neural crest cells (NCCs) from amniote embryos, such as from chicks, mice and humans, is desirable for experiments in fate determination. NCCs are also useful for testing the functional effects of molecular changes underlying numerous human diseases of neural crest derivatives and for investigating their potential for therapeutic compensation. This protocol details embryonic microdissection followed by neural tube explantation. Conditions favoring NCC expansion and the maintenance of their stem cell-like properties are described. Although neural crest-like cells can be derived from a number of sites in the mature organism, full potential is best ensured by their purification from their source tissue at the outset of migration. Going from embryo to established cell line takes 4 d; the first is the most labor-intensive day, but minimal intervention is required thereafter.

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