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J Neurosci Methods. 1989 Mar;27(2):121-32.

In vitro and in vivo transplantation of fetal rat brain cells following incubation with various anatomic tracing substances.

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Department of Neurology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville 22908.


Implantation of fetal brain regional anlage into host brains ('brain transplantation') holds promise as a plausible treatment for certain human neurodegenerative disorders. Improvements in experimental brain transplantation techniques include: (1) utilization of brain cells in tissue culture as opposed to freshly prepared cell suspensions as a transplantation source, (2) prelabeling of fetal brain cells with inert, non-toxic tracer substances to allow subsequent (a) unequivocal identification of those cells as being fetally derived, and (b) anatomical and immunohistochemical identification of transplanted neurons, and (3) development of in vitro models for transplantation to allow physiological studies of connections formed between fetal neurons and host brain tissue. We examined the ability of brain cell suspensions derived from rat fetuses 15-17 gestational days old to accumulate and retain anatomic tracing substances, including Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L), rhodamine-labeled latex microspheres (RLM) and fluorogold (FG). All tracers were rapidly accumulated by fetal brain cells, but only PHA-L and RLM were retained following implantation into adult hosts or in tissue culture in vitro. PHA-L-labeled fetal brain cells transplanted in vivo showed morphological characteristics similar to fetal neurons kept in tissue culture in vitro. RLM- or PHA-L-labeled fetal brain cells can be co-cultured with rat brain slices maintained in long-term roller culture. This in vitro system will allow identification and physiological or immunohistochemical study of interactions between fetally derived and host brain neurons.

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