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Methods for culturing adult CNS neurons reveal a CNS conditioning effect

van Niekerk, EA;Kawaguchi, R;Marques de Freria, C;Groeniger, K;Marchetto, MC;Dupraz, S;Bradke, F;Geschwind, DH;Gage, FH;Tuszynski, MH;

Neuronal cultures provide a basis for reductionist insights that rely on molecular and pharmacological manipulation. However, the inability to culture mature adult CNS neurons limits our understanding of adult neuronal physiology. Here, we report methods for culturing adult central nervous system neurons in large numbers and across multiple brain regions for extended time periods. Primary adult neuronal cultures develop polarity; they establish segregated dendritic and axonal compartments, maintain resting membrane potentials, exhibit spontaneous and evoked electrical activity, and form neural networks. Cultured adult neurons isolated from different brain regions such as the hippocampus, cortex, brainstem, and cerebellum exhibit distinct cell morphologies, growth patterns, and spontaneous firing characteristics reflective of their regions of origin. Using adult motor cortex cultures, we identify a CNS “conditioning” effect after spinal cord injury. The ability to culture adult neurons offers a valuable tool for studying basic and therapeutic science of the brain.