Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 224 Views Mar 5, 2023

In the peripheral nervous system, Schwann cells are the primary type of glia; their in vitro differentiation and dedifferentiation system has not been described in detail in the literature. Thus, an in vitro differentiation and dedifferentiation system of rat Schwann cells is described in this protocol. These cultures and systems may be used to investigate the morphological and biochemical effects of drug interventions or lentivirus-mediated gene transfer on Schwann cells during differentiation or dedifferentiation.

Graphical abstract

0 Q&A 1300 Views May 20, 2022

The vestibular sensory apparatus contained in the inner ear is a marvelous evolutionary adaptation for sensing movement in 3 dimensions and is essential for an animal’s sense of orientation in space, head movement, and balance. Damage to these systems through injury or disease can lead to vertigo, Meniere’s disease, and other disorders that are profoundly debilitating. One challenge in studying vestibular organs is their location within the boney inner ear and their small size, especially in mice, which have become an advantageous mammalian model. This protocol describes the dissection procedure of the five vestibular organs from the inner ear of adult mice, followed by immunohistochemical labeling of a whole mount preparation using antibodies to label endogenous proteins such as calretinin to label Type I hair cells or to amplify genetically expressed fluorescent proteins for confocal microscopic imaging. Using typical lab equipment and reagents, a patient technician, student, or postdoc can learn to dissect and immunolabel mouse vestibular organs to investigate their structure in health and disease.

0 Q&A 1533 Views Mar 5, 2022

Optogenetics has the potential to transform the study of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), but the complex anatomy of the PNS poses unique challenges for the focused delivery of light to specific tissues. This protocol describes the fabrication of a wireless telemetry system for studying peripheral sensory pathways. Unlike existing wireless approaches, the low-power wireless telemetry offers organ specificity via a sandwiched pre-curved tether, and enables high-throughput analysis of behavioral experiments with a channel isolation strategy. We describe the technical procedures for the construction of these devices, the wireless power transmission (TX) system with antenna coils, and their implementation for in vivo experimental applications. In total, the timeline of the procedure, including device fabrication, implantation, and preparation to begin in vivo experimentation can be completed in ~2-4 weeks. Implementation of these devices allows for chronic (>1 month) wireless optogenetic manipulation of peripheral neural pathways in freely behaving animals navigating homecage environments (up to 8).

0 Q&A 1124 Views Mar 5, 2022

Peripheral nerve injury (PNI) is common in all walks of life, and the most common PNIs are nerve crush and nerve transection. While optimal functional recovery after crush injury occurs over weeks, functional recovery after nerve transection with microsurgical repair and grafting is poor, and associated with permanent disability. The gold-standard treatment for nerve transection injury is microsurgical tensionless end-to-end suture repair. Since it is unethical to do experimental PNI studies in humans, it is therefore indispensable to have a simple, reliable, and reproducible pre-clinical animal model for successful evaluation of the efficacy of a novel treatment strategy. The objective of this article is two-fold: (A) To present a novel standardized peripheral nerve transection method in mice, using fibrin glue for modeling peripheral nerve transection injury, with reproducible gap distance between the severed nerve ends, and (B) to document the step-wise description of constructing a pressure sensor device for crush injury pressure measurements. We have successfully established a novel nerve transection model in mice using fibrin glue, and demonstrated that this transection method decreases surgical difficulties and variability by avoiding microsurgical manipulations on the nerve, ensuring the reproducibility and reliability of this animal model. Although it is quite impossible to exactly mimic the pathophysiological changes seen in nerve transection with sutures, we hope that the close resemblance of our novel pre-clinical model with gold-standard suturing can be easily reproduced by any lab, and that the data generated by this method significantly contributes to better understanding of nerve pathophysiology, molecular mechanisms of nerve regeneration, and the development of novel strategies for optimal functional recovery. In case of peripheral nerve crush injury, current methods rely on inter-device and operator precision to limit the variation with applied pressure. While the inability to accurately quantify the crush pressure may result in reduced reproducibility between animals and studies, there is no documentation of a pressure monitoring device that can be readily used for real-time pressure measurements. To address this deficit, we constructed a novel portable device comprised of an Arduino UNO microcontroller board and force sensitive resistor (FSR) capable of reporting the real-time pressure applied to a nerve. This novel digital pressure sensor device is cheap, easy to construct and assemble, and we believe that this device will be useful for any lab performing nerve crush injury in rodents.

0 Q&A 1748 Views Oct 20, 2021

The thoracic paravertebral sympathetic chain postganglionic neurons (tSPNs) represent the predominant sympathetic control of vascular function in the trunk and upper extremities. tSPNs cluster to form ganglia linked by an interganglionic nerve and receive multisegmental convergent and divergent synaptic input from cholinergic sympathetic preganglionic neurons of the spinal cord (Blackman and Purves, 1969; Lichtman et al., 1980). Studies in the past have focused on cervical and lumbar chain ganglia in multiple species, but few have examined the thoracic chain ganglia, whose location and diminutive size make them less conducive to experimentation. Seminal studies on the integrative properties of preganglionic axonal projections onto tSPNs were performed in guinea pig (Blackman and Purves, 1969; Lichtman et al., 1980), but as mice have become the accepted mammalian genetic model organism, there is need to reproduce and expand on these studies in this smaller model. We describe an ex vivo approach that enables electrophysiological, calcium imaging, and optogenetic assessment of convergence, divergence, and studies on pre- to postganglionic synaptic transmission, as well as whole-cell recordings from individual tSPNs. Preganglionic axonal connections from intact ventral roots and interganglionic nerves across multiple segments can be stimulated to evoke compound action potential responses in individual thoracic ganglia as recorded with suction electrodes. Chemical block of synaptic transmission differentiates spiking of preganglionic axons from synaptically-recruited tSPNs. Further dissection, including removal of the sympathetic chain, enables whole-cell patch clamp recordings from individual tSPNs for characterization of cellular and synaptic properties.

0 Q&A 3278 Views Aug 5, 2021

The pancreas is a heavily innervated organ, but pancreatic innervation can be challenging to comprehensively assess using conventional histological methods. However, recent advances in whole-mount tissue clearing and 3D rendering techniques have allowed detailed reconstructions of pancreatic innervation. Optical clearing is used to enhance tissue transparency and reduce light scattering, thus eliminating the need to section the tissue. Here, we describe a modified version of the optical tissue clearing protocol iDISCO+ (immunolabeling-enabled three-dimensional imaging of solvent-cleared organs) optimized for pancreatic innervation and endocrine markers. The protocol takes 13-19 days, depending on tissue size. In addition, we include protocols for imaging using light sheet and confocal microscopes and for 3D segmentation of pancreatic innervation and endocrine cells using Imaris.

0 Q&A 2182 Views Jun 20, 2021

The function of neurons in afferent reception, integration, and generation of electrical activity relies on their strikingly polarized organization, characterized by distinct membrane domains. These domains have different compositions resulting from a combination of selective targeting and retention of membrane proteins. In neurons, most proteins are delivered from their site of synthesis in the soma to the axon via anterograde vesicular transport and undergo retrograde transport for redistribution and/or lysosomal degradation. A key question is whether proteins destined for the same domain are transported in separate vesicles for local assembly or whether these proteins are pre-assembled and co-transported in the same vesicles for delivery to their cognate domains. To assess the content of transport vesicles, one strategy relies on staining of sciatic nerves after ligation, which drives the accumulation of anterogradely and retrogradely transported vesicles on the proximal and distal side of the ligature, respectively. This approach may not permit confident assessment of the nature of the intracellular vesicles identified by staining, and analysis is limited to the availability of suitable antibodies. Here, we use dual color live imaging of proteins labeled with different fluorescent tags, visualizing anterograde and retrograde axonal transport of several proteins simultaneously. These proteins were expressed in rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons cultured alone or with Schwann cells under myelinating conditions to assess whether glial cells modify the patterns of axonal transport. Advantages of this protocol are the dynamic identification of transport vesicles and characterization of their content for various proteins that is not limited by available antibodies.

0 Q&A 2757 Views Nov 20, 2020

Neurotropic reoviruses repurpose host machinery to traffic over long distances in neuronal processes and access distal replication sites. Understanding mechanisms of neuronal transmission is facilitated by using simplified in vitro primary neuronal culture models. Advances in the design of compartmentalized microfluidic devices lend robustness to neuronal culture models by enabling compartmentalization and manipulation of distinct neuronal processes. Here, we describe a streamlined methodology to culture sensory neurons dissociated from dorsal root ganglia of embryonic rats in microfluidic devices. We further describe protocols to exogenously label reovirus and image, track, and analyze transport of single reovirus particles in living neurons. These techniques can be adapted to study directed axonal transport of other neurotropic viruses and neuronal factors involved in signaling and pathology.

0 Q&A 3877 Views Sep 20, 2019
Peripheral nerve injury (PNI) is an excellent model for studying neural responses to injury and elucidating the mechanisms that can facilitate axon regeneration. As such, several animal models have been employed to study regenerative mechanisms after PNI, including Aplysia, zebrafish, rabbits, cats and rodents. This protocol describes how to perform a sciatic nerve injury and repair in mice, one of the most frequently used models to study mechanisms that facilitate recovery after PNI, and that takes advantage of the availability of many genetic models. In this protocol, we describe a method for using fibrin glue to secure the proximal and distal stumps of an injured nerve in close alignment. This method facilitates the alignment of nerve stumps, which aids in regeneration of both sensory and motor axons and allows successful reconnection with peripheral targets.
0 Q&A 3413 Views Jun 20, 2019
Although axons in the peripheral nervous system can regenerate, functional recovery after nerve injuries is poor. Activity-based therapies, such as exercise and electrical stimulation, enhance the regeneration of cut peripheral axons. Despite their effectiveness, clinical application of these experimental techniques has been limited. At least part of the basis for this translational barrier has been a lack of information as to the precise mechanism of activity-based therapies on peripheral axon regeneration. To evaluate the requirements for neuron-type specific activation to promote regeneration using these therapies, in the current protocol, we employed optogenetics. Utilizing the advantages of transgenic mouse lines we targeted opsin expression to different neuron types. Using fiber optics we activated those neurons with high temporal specificity as a model of activity-based intervention after nerve injury and to measure functional recovery achieved after such a treatment.

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