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J Biomol Screen. 2013 Jun;18(5):534-43. doi: 10.1177/1087057112471989. Epub 2012 Dec 27.

Automated analysis of neurite outgrowth in mouse retinal explants.

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Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Laboratory of Neural Circuit Development and Regeneration, Animal Physiology and Neurobiology Section, Leuven, Belgium.


Despite intensive research efforts over the past years, regeneration of injured axons in the central nervous system remains elusive. In the quest for neurostimulatory agents that promote regeneration, well-defined models and analysis methods are required. Tissue explant cultures closely resemble the in vivo situation, making them ideal to study the effect of compounds on the neuro-glial network. This study reports the optimization of an explant culture technique using retinas of neonatal mice and the development of an analysis script that allows for rapid and automated analysis of neurite outgrowth from these explants. The key features of this script (i.e., local thresholding and form selection) allow for swift and unbiased detection of neurite outgrowth. The novel analysis method is compared with two commonly used manual methods and successfully validated by performing dose-response studies with molecules known to either inhibit (anti-β1-integrin antibody) or stimulate (brain-derived neurotrophic factor and ciliary neurotrophic factor) neurite outgrowth from retinal explants. Finally, the new analysis script is used to study whether retinal explant origin has any effect on neurite outgrowth.


automated/automatic morphometric analysis; axonal regeneration; neonatal mice; neurite outgrowth; retina; tissue explant

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