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Exp Brain Res. 1995;106(2):275-82.

Dopaminergic neuronal survival and the effects of bFGF in explant, three dimensional and monolayer cultures of embryonic rat ventral mesencephalon.

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MRC Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, England.


Embryonic substantia nigra cells when transplanted into the striatum can reverse many of the defects of Parkinson's disease. The efficacy of such grafts is compromised by the poor survival of grafted dopaminergic neurones; typically, 3-10% survive transplantation. We used three tissue culture models to identify stages in the procedure for the preparation and insertion of grafts which might be responsible for this cell death and to identify environments in which survival is optimised. (1) The ventral mesencephalon was dissected from the donor brain, then placed immediately into culture contained in a collagen gel. (2) The dissected tissue fragments were enzymatically dissociated, then the cells placed into monolayer culture. (3) Enzymatically dissociated tissue was packed into 0.5-mm-diameter porous tubes, to simulate the compaction of cells into a graft deposit in the host brain. Dissociation of the tissue by itself caused the death of approximately 30% of dopaminergic neurones, as judged by the difference in cell counts between the intact embryonic day 14 (E14) mesencephalon, and cells dissociated then packed into tubes. Of the dissociated neurones approximately 60% died during the first 24 h and 87% during the first 3 days in monolayer culture, while only 7% of dopaminergic neurones in three-dimensional cultures and 11% of neurones in explant cultures died over the first 3 days. Embryonic dopaminergic neurones are clearly very vulnerable to adverse conditions during the first days after their removal from the donor brain. The excellent survival of neurones in three-dimensional and explant cultures indicates that close association with other cells, which may provide greatly improved access to trophic factors, can enable the cells to survive this period of vulnerability. In contrast to its effects in monolayer cultures, bFGF had no effect on dopaminergic neuronal survival in either explant or three-dimensional cultures.

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