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Preparation of organotypic brain slice cultures for the study of Alzheimer’s disease

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Early online date15 May 2018
Accepted/In press15 May 2018
E-pub ahead of print15 May 2018


King's Authors


Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterised by amyloid-β deposits in extracellular plaques, intracellular neurofibrillary tangles of aggregated tau, synaptic dysfunction and neuronal death. There are no cures for AD and current medications only alleviate some disease symptoms. Transgenic rodent models to study Alzheimer's mimic features of human disease such as age-dependent accumulation of abnormal -amyloid and tau, synaptic dysfunction, cognitive deficits and neurodegeneration. These models have proven vital for improving our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying AD and for identifying promising therapeutic approaches. However, modelling neurodegenerative disease in animals commonly involves aging animals until they develop harmful phenotypes, often coupled with invasive procedures. In vivo studies are also resource, labour, time and cost intensive. We have developed a novel organotypic brain slice culture model to study Alzheimer' disease. Using this approach brings the potential of substantially reducing the number of rodents used in dementia research from an estimated 18,000 per year. We obtain 36 brain slices from each mouse pup, considerably reducing the numbers of animals required to investigate multiple stages of disease. This tractable model also allows the opportunity to modulate multiple pathways in tissues from a single animal. We believe that this model will most benefit dementia researchers in the academic and drug discovery sectors. We validated the slice culture model against aged mice, showing that the molecular phenotype closely mimics that displayed in vivo, albeit in an accelerated timescale. We showed beneficial outcomes following treatment of slices with agents previously shown to have therapeutic effects in vivo, and we also identified new mechanisms of action of other compounds. Thus, organotypic brain slice cultures from transgenic mouse models expressing Alzheimer's disease-related genes may provide a valid and sensitive replacement for in vivo studies that do not involve behavioural analysis.

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