Chronic in vivo imaging in the mouse spinal cord using an implanted chamber

M.J. Farrer, I.M. Bernstein, D.H. Schlafer, T.A. Cleland, J.R. Fetcho, C.B. Schaffer
Nature Methods Vol. 9, pp. 297-302

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Understanding and treatment of spinal cord pathology is limited in part by a lack of time-lapse in vivo imaging strategies at the cellular level. We developed a chronically implanted spinal chamber and surgical procedure suitable for time-lapse in vivo multiphoton microscopy of mouse spinal cord without the need for repeat surgical procedures. We routinely imaged mice repeatedly for more than 5 weeks postoperatively with up to ten separate imaging sessions and observed neither motor-function deficit nor neuropathology in the spinal cord as a result of chamber implantation. Using this chamber we quantified microglia and afferent axon dynamics after a laser-induced spinal cord lesion and observed massive microglia infiltration within 1 d along with a heterogeneous dieback of axon stumps. By enabling chronic imaging studies over timescales ranging from minutes to months, our method offers an ideal platform for understanding cellular dynamics in response to injury and therapeutic interventions.

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