Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 705 Views Apr 20, 2024

In vivo brain imaging, using a combination of genetically encoded Ca2+ indicators and gradient refractive index (GRIN) lens, is a transformative technology that has become an increasingly potent research tool over the last decade. It allows direct visualisation of the dynamic cellular activity of deep brain neurons and glia in conscious animals and avoids the effect of anaesthesia on the network. This technique provides a step change in brain imaging where fibre photometry combines the whole ensemble of cellular activity, and multiphoton microscopy is limited to imaging superficial brain structures either under anaesthesia or in head-restrained conditions. We have refined the intravital imaging technique to image deep brain nuclei in the ventral medulla oblongata, one of the most difficult brain structures to image due to the movement of brainstem structures outside the cranial cavity during free behaviour (head and neck movement), whose targeting requires GRIN lens insertion through the cerebellum—a key structure for balance and movement. Our protocol refines the implantation method of GRIN lenses, giving the best possible approach to image deep extracranial brainstem structures in awake rodents with improved cell rejection/acceptance criteria during analysis. We have recently reported this method for imaging the activity of retrotrapezoid nucleus and raphe neurons to outline their chemosensitive characteristics. This revised method paves the way to image challenging brainstem structures to investigate their role in complex behaviours such as breathing, circulation, sleep, digestion, and swallowing, and could be extended to image and study the role of cerebellum in balance, movement, motor learning, and beyond.

Key features

• We developed a protocol that allows imaging from brainstem neurons and glia in freely behaving rodents.

• Our refined method of GRIN lenses implantation and cell sorting approach gives the highest number of cells with the least postoperative complications.

• The revised deep brainstem imaging method paves way to understand complex behaviours such as cardiorespiratory regulation, sleep, swallowing, and digestion.

• Our protocol can be implemented to image cerebellar structures to understand their role in key functions such as balance, movement, motor learning, and more.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 691 Views Jan 20, 2024

The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is a major obstacle to the diagnostics and treatment of many central nervous system (CNS) diseases. A prime example of this challenge is seen in glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive and malignant primary brain tumor. The BBB in brain tumors, or the blood–brain–tumor barrier (BBTB), prevents the efficient delivery of most therapeutics to brain tumors. Current strategies to overcome the BBB for therapeutic delivery, such as using hyperosmotic agents (mannitol), have impeded progress in clinical translation limited by the lack of spatial resolution, high incidences of complications, and potential for toxicity. Focused ultrasound combined with intravenously administered microbubbles enables the transient disruption of the BBB and has progressed to early-phase clinical trials. However, the poor survival with currently approved treatments for GBM highlights the compelling need to develop and validate treatment strategies as well as the screening for more potent anticancer drugs. In this protocol, we introduce an optical method to open the BBTB (OptoBBTB) for therapeutic delivery via ultrashort pulse laser stimulation of vascular targeting plasmonic gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). Specifically, the protocol includes the synthesis and characterization of vascular-targeting AuNPs and a detailed procedure of optoBBTB. We also report the downstream characterization of the drug delivery and tumor treatment efficacy after BBB modulation. Compared with other barrier modulation methods, our optical approach has advantages in high spatial resolution and minimally invasive access to tissues. Overall, optoBBTB allows for the delivery of a variety of therapeutics into the brain and will accelerate drug delivery and screening for CNS disease treatment.

Key features

• Pulsed laser excitation of vascular-targeting gold nanoparticles non-invasively and reversibly modulates the blood–brain barrier permeability.

• OptoBBTB enhances drug delivery in clinically relevant glioblastoma models.

• OptoBBTB has the potential for drug screening and evaluation for superficial brain tumor treatment.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 483 Views Dec 20, 2023

The inferior colliculus (IC) is an important processing center in the auditory system, which also receives non-auditory sensory input. The IC consists of several subnuclei whose functional role in (non-) auditory processing and plastic response properties are best approached by studying awake animals, preferably in a longitudinal fashion. The increasing use of mice in auditory research, the availability of genetic models, and the superficial location of the IC in the mouse have made it an attractive species for studying IC function. Here, we describe a protocol for exposing the mouse IC for up to a few weeks for in vivo imaging or electrophysiology in a stable manner. This method allows for a broader sampling of the IC while maintaining the brain surface in good quality and without reopening the craniotomy. Moreover, as it is adaptable for both electrophysiological recordings of the entire IC and imaging of the dorsal IC surface, it can be applied to answer a multitude of questions.

Key features

• A surgical protocol for long-term physiological recordings from the same or separate neuronal populations in the inferior colliculus.

• Optimized for awake in vivo experiments in the house mouse (Mus musculus).

0 Q&A 344 Views Dec 5, 2023

Recent advancements in chemogenetic tools, such as designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs), allow the simultaneous manipulation of activity over a specific, broad brain region in nonhuman primates. However, the introduction of DREADDs into large and complexly shaped cortical sulcus regions of macaque monkeys is technically demanding; previously reported methods are time consuming or do not allow the spatial range of expression to be controlled. In the present report, we describe the procedure for an adeno-associated viral vector (AAV2.1) delivery via handheld injections into the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann’s area 9/46) of macaque monkeys, with reference to pre-scanned anatomical magnetic resonance images. This procedure allows the precise delivery of DREADDs to a specific cortical region.

Key features

• This article describes the procedures for injecting viral vectors encoding functional proteins for chemogenetic manipulation into targeted cortical sulcus regions.

• The protocol requires magnetic resonance imaging for the accurate estimation of the injection sites prior to surgery.

• Viral vector solutions are injected using a handheld syringe under microscopic guidance.

• This protocol allows for the precise introduction of designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) to large and complex cortical regions.

0 Q&A 1211 Views Nov 5, 2023

Brain organoids have been widely used to study diseases and the development of the nervous system. Many reports have investigated the application of brain organoids, but most of these models lack vascular structures, which play essential roles in brain development and neurological diseases. The brain and blood vessels originate from two different germ layers, making it difficult to induce vascularized brain organoids in vitro. We developed this protocol to generate brain-specific blood vessel and cerebral organoids and then fused them at a specific developmental time point. The fused cerebral organoids exhibited robust vascular network-like structures, which allows simulating the in vivo developmental processes of the brain for further applications in various neurological diseases.

Key Features

• Culturing vascularized brain organoids using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs).

• The new approach generates not only neural cells and vessel-like networks but also brain-resident microglia immune cells in a single organoid.

Graphical overview

Workflow and timeline for vessel organoid and vascularized brain organoid generation. (By Figdraw, ID: RTIURffccf)

0 Q&A 396 Views Sep 5, 2023

An emerging body of behavioural studies indicates that regular swimming in cold water has positive effects on mental health and wellbeing, such as reducing fatigue, improving mood, and lessening depressive symptoms. Moreover, some studies reported immediate effects of cold-water immersion (CWI) on elevating mood and increasing a positive emotional state. However, the neural mechanisms underlying these effects remain largely unknown. The lack of studies using neuroimaging techniques to investigate how a whole-body CWI affects neural processes has partly resulted from the lack of a tested experimental protocol. Previous protocols administered tonic limb cooling (1–10 °C) while recording functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) signals. However, using very low water temperature constitutes points of contrast to painful experiences that are different from what we experience after a whole-body head-out CWI. In our protocol, healthy adults unhabituated to cold water were scanned twice: immediately before (pre-CWI) and after (post-CWI) immersion in cold water (water temperature 20 °C) for 5 min. We recorded cardiac and ventilatory responses to CWI and assessed self-reported changes in positive and negative affects. Our protocol showed reliable changes in brain connectivity after a short exposure to cold water, thus enabling its use as a tested experimental framework in future studies.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 643 Views Aug 5, 2023

Sleep is not homogenous but contains a highly diverse microstructural composition influenced by neuromodulators. Prior methods used to measure neuromodulator levels in vivo have been limited by low time resolution or technical difficulties in achieving recordings in a freely moving setting, which is essential for natural sleep. In this protocol, we demonstrate the combination of electroencephalographic (EEG)/electromyographic (EMG) recordings with fiber photometric measurements of fluorescent biosensors for neuromodulators in freely moving mice. This allows for real-time assessment of extracellular neuromodulator levels during distinct phases of sleep with a high temporal resolution.

0 Q&A 1189 Views May 5, 2023

Three-dimensional bioprinting utilizes additive manufacturing processes that combine cells and a bioink to create living tissue models that mimic tissues found in vivo. Stem cells can regenerate and differentiate into specialized cell types, making them valuable for research concerning degenerative diseases and their potential treatments. 3D bioprinting stem cell–derived tissues have an advantage over other cell types because they can be expanded in large quantities and then differentiated to multiple cell types. Using patient-derived stem cells also enables a personalized medicine approach to the study of disease progression. In particular, mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are an attractive cell type for bioprinting because they are easier to obtain from patients in comparison to pluripotent stem cells, and their robust characteristics make them desirable for bioprinting. Currently, both MSC bioprinting protocols and cell culturing protocols exist separately, but there is a lack of literature that combines the culturing of the cells with the bioprinting process. This protocol aims to bridge that gap by describing the bioprinting process in detail, starting with how to culture cells pre-printing, to 3D bioprinting the cells, and finally to the culturing process post-printing. Here, we outline the process of culturing MSCs to produce cells for 3D bioprinting. We also describe the process of preparing Axolotl Biosciences TissuePrint - High Viscosity (HV) and Low Viscosity (LV) bioink, the incorporation of MSCs to the bioink, setting up the BIO X and the Aspect RX1 bioprinters, and necessary computer-aided design (CAD) files. We also detail the differentiation of 2D and 3D cell cultures of MSC to dopaminergic neurons, including media preparation. We have also included the protocols for viability, immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology, and performing a dopamine enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), along with the statistical analysis.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 727 Views Mar 20, 2023

The electroencephalogram (EEG) is a powerful tool for analyzing neural activity in various neurological disorders, both in animals and in humans. This technology has enabled researchers to record the brain’s abrupt changes in electrical activity with high resolution, thus facilitating efforts to understand the brain’s response to internal and external stimuli. The EEG signal acquired from implanted electrodes can be used to precisely study the spiking patterns that occur during abnormal neural discharges. These patterns can be analyzed in conjunction with behavioral observations and serve as an important means for accurate assessment and quantification of behavioral and electrographic seizures. Numerous algorithms have been developed for the automated quantification of EEG data; however, many of these algorithms were developed with outdated programming languages and require robust computational hardware to run effectively. Additionally, some of these programs require substantial computation time, reducing the relative benefits of automation. Thus, we sought to develop an automated EEG algorithm that was programmed using a familiar programming language (MATLAB), and that could run efficiently without extensive computational demands. This algorithm was developed to quantify interictal spikes and seizures in mice that were subjected to traumatic brain injury. Although the algorithm was designed to be fully automated, it can be operated manually, and all the parameters for EEG activity detection can be easily modified for broad data analysis. Additionally, the algorithm is capable of processing months of lengthy EEG datasets in the order of minutes to hours, reducing both analysis time and errors introduced through manual-based processing.

0 Q&A 563 Views Feb 20, 2023

The zebrafish retina is a canonical vertebrate retina. Since the past few years, with the continually growing genetic toolbox and imaging techniques, zebrafish plays a crucial role in retinal research. This protocol describes a method to quantitatively evaluate the expression of Arrestin3a (Arr3a) and G-protein receptor kinase7a (Grk7a) in the adult zebrafish retina at protein levels by infrared fluorescence western blot. Our protocol can be easily adapted to measure protein levels in additional zebrafish tissues.

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