Sunday, 22 September 2013 21:01

Animal-free tests for investigating effects of toxic substances on brain development Featured

The University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) has developed a new method for simulating the development of fetal brain cells using human cancer cells. By administering toxic substances they can investigate their potential for impairing brain development.

A research team led by Dr. Michael Stern from the cell biology work group at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover and under the supervision of Professor Dr. Gerd Bicker has developed a new method for testing such substances on the basis of cell cultures. The scientists use human cancer cells, so-called NTera-2 cells, administering certain substances that stimulate the cells in the culture dish to develop into brain cells, thus mimicking the development of fetal brain cells. The scientists determine whether a substance is harmful to brain development by applying substances to the developing cells in differing concentrations.

During early embryonic development in the uterus, key processes take place. It is essential for the development of an intact brain that these processes not be disturbed. During this time the neural progenitor cells must proliferate and migrate to their target sites, such as the cerebral cortex, and develop into nerve cells communicating with one other via messenger substances.

The cell biologists were able to mimic these processes in the laboratory.

Source (in German):
Original paper: