Scientists have invented a rapid method for screening neurotoxins: The research group used a microchip to pattern human neurons as a hexagonal array of nodes and let the neurons grow connections to build a network. When the cells were exposed to a neurotoxin, however, the growth of this network was disturbed, and could be used to quantify neurotoxicity. Jonathan West, who led the project, has called the method the "network formation assay" (NFA).
"The formation of connections between neurons is one of the basic principles of memory and learning, and its disturbance is frequently a clinical sign of neurotoxicity", says Christoph van Thriel from the "Leibniz-Institut für Arbeitsforschung" (IfADo) in Dortmund, a collaborator on the project. "The NFA therefore represents an in vitro model that is comparable to the in vivo state."
Thus, the NFA can improve the ability to predict the neurotoxic effects of a chemical and ultimately reduce animal testing. In addition, a typical NFA screen takes only a few hours, enabling scientists to test a great number of substances in a very short time. Since the European Union has implemented the REACH legislation, the need for rapid screening methods has grown.
MEDICA.de; Source: Leibniz-Institut für Analytische Wissenschaften - ISAS