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Neuronal circuitry and plasticity of the spinal cord using in-vivo electrophysiology in transgenic mice

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Studying neuronal circuitry in mice

The human central nervous system comprising of the brain and spinal cord is a complex system that is critical for normal functioning. Studying such a system is an even more complex endeavour.

Health

Usually, large animals such as cats are used for in vivo testing of the spinal cord using electrodes for intracellular recordings of neurons (also called nerve cells). Scientists of the EU-funded project MICE SPINAL CORD CM worked on using different transgenic mice strains to elucidate spinal electrophysiology.Project members successfully adapted intracellular recording techniques and surgical procedures used in larger animals for testing in mice and identified important motor neuron properties. Motor neurons are nerve cells that help produce movement in the limbs, abdomen, heart and more. Decerebrate in vivo mice models were then prepared to study effects of motor neuron dysfunction. Decerebration is a process involving the removal of the cerebrum in the brain to associate certain reflexes with different parts of the brain. These tests revealed that drugs can be used to stimulate the spinal cord and induce functional activity (e.g. locomotion). Human neuronal disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) were also studied using transgenic mice. Studies confirmed that increased excitability is seen in cells of ALS patients, leading to neuronal degeneration. Results were published in peer-reviewed journals and the magazine Projects, besides being disseminated at several international meetings. Project funding has enabled the establishment of a state-of-the-art laboratory in Europe with expertise in in vivo adult mouse spinal cord experiments and targeted manipulations. Besides fostering more collaborations and increasing their visibility, project activities have made it possible to study human neurological disorders using transgenic mice. This has important implications for the health care sector and patients suffering from neurological disorders such as ALS.

Keywords

Transgenic, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, motor neuron, intracellular, electrophysiology, spinal cord, decerebration

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