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Brain and blood extraction for immunostaining, protein, and RNA measurements after long-term two photon imaging in mice

Nancy E. Ruiz-Uribe, Oliver Bracko

Protocol Exchange (2020)

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This protocol describes a method to extract brain tissue and whole blood samples to perform immunostaining, protein extraction for ELISA, western blot, or RNA extraction for qPCR after long-term in vivo imaging. This protocol is in particular useful to process and maintain valuable tissue samples, allowing for a broad spectrum of analysis and techniques without compromising the quality of the samples.

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Label-free assessment of hemodynamics in individual cortical brain vessels using third harmonic generation microscopy

Sung Ji Ahn, Nancy E. Ruiz-Uribe, Baoqiang Li, Jason Porter, Sava Sakadzic, and Chris B. Schaffer

Biomedical Optics Express (2020)

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We show that third harmonic generation (THG) microscopy using a 1-MHz train of 1,300-nm femtosecond duration laser pulses enabled visualization of the structure and quantification of flow speed in the cortical microvascular network of mice to a depth of > 1 mm. Simultaneous three-photon imaging of an intravascular fluorescent tracer enabled us to quantify the cell free layer thickness. Using the label-free imaging capability of THG, we measured flow speed in different types of vessels with and without the presence of an intravascular tracer conjugated to a high molecular weight dextran (2 MDa FITC-dextran, 5% w/v in saline, 100 µl). We found a ∼20% decrease in flow speeds in arterioles and venules due to the dextran-conjugated FITC, which we confirmed with Doppler optical coherence tomography. Capillary flow speeds did not change, although we saw a ∼7% decrease in red blood cell flux with dextran-conjugated FITC injection.

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Increasing cerebral blood flow improves cognition into late stages in Alzheimer’s disease mice

Oliver Bracko, Brendah N Njiru, Madisen Swallow, Muhammad Ali, Mohammad Haft-Javaherian, Chris B Schaffer

Journal of Cerebral Blood flow and Metabolism (2019)

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Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a 20–30% reduction in cerebral blood flow. In the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, inhibiting neutrophil adhesion using an antibody against the neutrophil specific protein Ly6G was recently shown to drive rapid improvements in cerebral blood flow that was accompanied by an improvement in performance on short-term memory tasks. Here, in a longitudinal aging study, we assessed how far into disease development a single injection of anti-Ly6G treatment can acutely improve short-term memory function. We found that APP/PS1 mice as old as 15–16 months had improved performance on the object replacement and Y-maze tests of spatial and working short-term memory, measured at one day after anti-Ly6G treatment. APP/PS1 mice at 17–18 months of age or older did not show acute improvements in cognitive performance, although we did find that capillary stalls were still reduced and cerebral blood flow was still increased by 17% in 21–22-months-old APP/PS1 mice given anti-Ly6G antibody. These data add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that cerebral blood flow reductions are an important contributing factor to the cognitive dysfunction associated with neurodegenerative disease. Thus, interfering with neutrophil adhesion could be a new therapeutic approach for Alzheimer’s disease.

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Surgical preparations, labeling strategies, and optical techniques for cell-resolved, in vivo imaging in the mouse spinal cord

Yu-Ting Cheng, Kawasi M.Lett, Chris B.Schaffer

Experimental Neurobiology (2019)

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n vivo optical imaging has enabled detailed studies of cellular dynamics in the brain of rodents in both healthy and diseased states. Such studies were made possible by three advances: surgical preparations that give optical access to the brain; strategies for in vivo labeling of cells with structural and functional fluorescent indicators; and optical imaging techniques that are relatively insensitive to light scattering by tissue. In vivo imaging in the rodent spinal cord has lagged behind than that in the brain, largely due to the anatomy around the spinal cord that complicates the surgical preparation, and to the strong optical scattering of the dorsal white matter that limits the ability to image deep into the spinal cord. Here, we review recent advances in surgical methods, labeling strategies, and optical tools that have enabled in vivo, high-resolution imaging of the dynamic behaviors of cells in the spinal cord in mice. Surgical preparations that enable long-term optical access and robust stabilization of the spinal cord are now available. Labeling strategies that have been used in the spinal cord tend to follow those that have been used in the brain, and some recent advances in genetically-encoded labeling strategies remain to be capitalized on. The optical imaging methods used to date, including two photon excited fluorescence microscopy, are largely limited to imaging the superficial layers of the spinal cord by the optical scattering of the white matter. Finally, we show preliminary data that points to the use of higher-order nonlinear optical processes, such as three photon excited fluorescence, as a means to image deeper into the mouse spinal cord.

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Apoε4 disrupts neurovascular regulation and undermines white matter integrity and cognitive function

Kenzo Koizumi, Yorito Hattori, Sung Ji Ahn, Izaskun Buendia, Antonio Ciacciarelli, Ken Uekawa, Gang Wang, Abigail Hiller, Lingzhi Zhao, Henning U. Voss, Steven M. Paul, Chris Schaffer, Laibaik Park & Costantino Iadecola

Nature Communications (2018)

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The ApoE4 allele is associated with increased risk of small vessel disease, which is a cause of vascular cognitive impairment. Here, we report that mice with targeted replacement (TR) of the ApoE gene with human ApoE4 have reduced neocortical cerebral blood flow compared to ApoE3-TR mice, an effect due to reduced vascular density rather than slowing of microvascular red blood cell flow. Furthermore, homeostatic mechanisms matching local delivery of blood flow to brain activity are impaired in ApoE4-TR mice. In a model of cerebral hypoperfusion, these cerebrovascular alterations exacerbate damage to the white matter of the corpus callosum and worsen cognitive dysfunction. Using 3-photon microscopy we found that the increased white matter damage is linked to an enhanced reduction of microvascular flow resulting in local hypoxia. Such alterations may be responsible for the increased susceptibility to hypoxic-ischemic lesions in the subcortical white matter of individuals carrying the ApoE4 allele.

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Diverse Inflammatory Response After Cerebral Microbleeds Includes Coordinated Microglial Migration and Proliferation

Sung Ji Ahn, Josef Anrather, Nozomi Nishimura, Chris B. Schaffer

Stroke (2018)

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Cerebral microbleeds are linked to cognitive decline, but it remains unclear how they impair neuronal function. Infarction is not typically observed near microbleeds, suggesting more subtle mechanisms, such as inflammation, may play a role. Because of their small size and largely asymptomatic nature, real-time detection and study of spontaneous cerebral microbleeds in humans and animal models are difficult. We used in vivo 2-photon microscopy through a chronic cranial window in adult mice to follow the inflammatory response after a cortical microhemorrhage of ≈100 μm diameter, induced by rupturing a targeted cortical arteriole with a laser. The inflammatory response included the invasion of blood-borne leukocytes, the migration and proliferation of brain-resident microglia, and the activation of astrocytes. Nearly all inflammatory cells responding to the microhemorrhage were brain-resident microglia, but a small number of CX3CR1+ and CCR2+ macrophages, ultimately originating from the invasion of blood-borne monocytes, were also found near the lesion. We found a coordinated pattern of microglia migration and proliferation, where microglia within 200 μm of the microhemorrhage migrated toward the lesion over hours to days. In contrast, microglia proliferation was not observed until ≈40 hours after the lesion and occurred primarily in a shell-shaped region where the migration of microglia decreased their local density. These data suggest that local microglia density changes may trigger proliferation. Astrocytes activated in a similar region as microglia but delayed by a few days. By 2 weeks, this inflammatory response had largely resolved.Although microhemorrhages are small in size, the brain responds to a single bleed with an inflammatory response that involves brain-resident and blood-derived cells, persists for weeks, and may impact the adjacent brain microenvironment.

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In Vivo Femtosecond Laser Subsurface Cortical Microtransections Attenuate Acute Rat Focal Seizures

Shivathmihai Nagappan, Lena Liu, Robert Fetcho, John Nguyen, Nozomi Nishimura, Ryan E. Radwanski, Seth Lieberman, Eliza Baird-Daniel, Hongtao Ma2,3, Mingrui Zhao, Chris B. Schaffer and Theodore H. Schwartz

Cerebral Cortex (2018)

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Recent evidence shows that seizures propagate primarily through supragranular cortical layers. To selectively modify these circuits, we developed a new technique using tightly focused, femtosecond infrared laser pulses to make as small as ~100 µm-wide subsurface cortical incisions surrounding an epileptic focus. We use this “laser scalpel” to produce subsurface cortical incisions selectively to supragranular layers surrounding an epileptic focus in an acute rodent seizure model. Compared with sham animals, these microtransections completely blocked seizure initiation and propagation in 1/3 of all animals. In the remaining animals, seizure frequency was reduced by 2/3 and seizure propagation reduced by 1/3. In those seizures that still propagated, it was delayed and reduced in amplitude. When the recording electrode was inside the partially isolated cube and the seizure focus was on the outside, the results were even more striking. In spite of these microtransections, somatosensory responses to tail stimulation were maintained but with reduced amplitude. Our data show that just a single enclosing wall of laser cuts limited to supragranular layers led to a significant reduction in seizure initiation and propagation with preserved cortical function. Modification of this concept may be a useful treatment for human epilepsy.

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Spatio-temporal dynamics of cerebral capillary segments with stalling red blood cells

Sefik Evren Erdener, Jianbo Tang, Amir Sajjadi, Kıvılcım Kılıc, Sreekanth Kura, Chris B Schaffer and David A Boas

Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism (2017)

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Optical coherence tomography (OCT) allows label-free imaging of red blood cell (RBC) flux within capillaries with high spatio-temporal resolution. In this study, we utilized time-series OCT-angiography to demonstrate interruptions in capillary. RBC flux in mouse brain in vivo. We noticed 7.5% of 200 capillaries had at least one stall in awake mice with chronic windows during a 9-min recording. At any instant, 0.45% of capillaries were stalled. Average stall duration was 15 s but could last over 1 min. Stalls were more frequent and longer lasting in acute window preparations. Further, isoflurane anesthesia in chronic preparations caused an increase in the number of stalls. In repeated imaging, the same segments had a tendency to stall again over a period of one month. In awake animals, functional stimulation decreased the observance of stalling events. Stalling segments were located distally, away from the first couple of arteriolar-side capillary branches and their average RBC and plasma velocities were lower than nonstalling capillaries within the same region. This first systematic analysis of capillary RBC stalls in the brain, enabled by rapid and continuous volumetric imaging of capillaries with OCTangiography, will lead to future investigations of the potential role of stalling events in cerebral pathologies. Ke

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Mixing injector enables time-resolved crystallography with high hit rate at X-ray free electron lasers

G. D. Calvey, A. M. Katz, C. B. Schaffer, and L. Pollack,

Structural dynamics (2016)

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Knowledge of protein structure provides essential insight into function, enhancing our understanding of diseases and enabling new treatment development. X-ray crystallography has been used to solve the structures of more than 100 000 proteins; however, the vast majority represent long-lived states that do not capture the functional motions of these molecular machines. Reactions triggered by the addition of a ligand can be the most challenging to detect with crystallography because of the difficulty of synchronizing reactions to create detectable quantities of transient states. The development of X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) and serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) enables new approaches for solving protein structures following the rapid diffusion of ligands into micron sized protein crystals. Conformational changes occurring on millisecond timescales can be detected and time-resolved. Here, we describe a new XFEL injector which incorporates a microfluidic mixer to rapidly combine reactant and sample milliseconds before the sample reaches the X-ray beam. The mixing injector consists of bonded, concentric glass capillaries. The fabrication process, employing custom laser cut centering spacers and UV curable epoxy, ensures precise alignment of capillaries for repeatable, centered sample flow and dependable mixing. Crystal delivery capillaries are 50 or 75 μm in diameter and can contain an integrated filter depending on the demands of the experiment. Reaction times can be varied from submillisecond to several hundred milliseconds. The injector features rapid and uniform mixing, low sample dilution, and high hit rates. It is fully compatible with existing SFX beamlines.

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The origin and implementation of the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training programs: an NIH common fund initiative

F. J. Meyers, A. Mathur, C. N. Fuhrmann, T. C. O’Brien, I. Wefes, P. A. Labosky, D. S. Duncan, A. August, A. Feig, K. L. Gould, M. J. Friedlaner, C. B. Schaffer, A. Van Wart, R. Chalkley

FASEB Journal (2016)

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Recent national reports and commentaries on the current status and needs of the U.S. biomedical research workforce have highlighted the limited career development opportunities for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees in academia, yet little attention is paid to preparation for career pathways outside of the traditional faculty path. Recognizing this issue, in 2013, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund issued a request for application titled "NIH Director's Biomedical Research Workforce Innovation Award: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST)." These 5-yr 1-time grants, awarded to 17 single or partnering institutions, were designed to develop sustainable approaches to broaden graduate and postgraduate training, aimed at creating training programs that reflect the range of career options that trainees may ultimately pursue. These institutions have formed a consortium in order to work together to develop, evaluate, share, and disseminate best practices and challenges. This is a first report on the early experiences of the consortium and the scope of participating BEST programs. In this report, we describe the state of the U.S. biomedical workforce and development of the BEST award, variations of programmatic approaches to assist with program design without BEST funding, and novel approaches to engage faculty in career development programs. To test the effectiveness of these BEST programs, external evaluators will assess their outcomes not only over the 5 yr grant period but also for an additional 10 yr beyond award completion.

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