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J Vis Exp. 2017 Sep 1;(127). doi: 10.3791/56103.

Stereological Estimation of Dopaminergic Neuron Number in the Mouse Substantia Nigra Using the Optical Fractionator and Standard Microscopy Equipment.

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Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Würzburg;
Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Würzburg.


In pre-clinical Parkinson's disease research, analysis of the nigrostriatal tract, including quantification of dopaminergic neuron loss within the substantia nigra, is essential. To estimate the total dopaminergic neuron number, unbiased stereology using the optical fractionator method is currently considered the gold standard. Because the theory behind the optical fractionator method is complex and because stereology is difficult to achieve without specialized equipment, several commercially available complete stereology systems that include the necessary software do exist, purely for cell counting reasons. Since purchasing a specialized stereology setup is not always feasible, for many reasons, this report describes a method for the stereological estimation of dopaminergic neuronal cell counts using standard microscopy equipment, including a light microscope, a motorized object table (x, y, z plane) with imaging software, and a computer for analysis. A step-by-step explanation is given on how to perform stereological quantification using the optical fractionator method, and pre-programmed files for the calculation of estimated cell counts are provided. To assess the accuracy of this method, a comparison to data obtained from a commercially available stereology apparatus was performed. Comparable cell numbers were found using this protocol and the stereology device, thus demonstrating the precision of this protocol for unbiased stereology.

[Available on 2019-09-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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