Developmental Neurotoxicity (DNT)

The use of human pluripotent stem cells offers the opportunity to investigate the potential effects of xenobiotics on the nervous central system during the early stage of development of embryos or in later life stages. During research and development, early information on the neurotoxicity or developmental toxicity of chemicals can guide the selection of the process for candidate products.

For the assessment of pesticides or drugs, in vitro safety testing is particularly useful for the elucidation of the mode of action.

For pharmaceutical applications, in vitro efficacy testing can be used in the selection of new drug candidates.

Services provided include:

  1. Use of in vitro tests for the assessing of developmental toxicity (DT) and developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) hazard.
  2. Use of in vitro tests for the assessing of neurotoxicity (NT) hazard
  3. Use of in vitro tests for assessing efficacy and mode of action (MoA) of neuroprotective drugs.
  4. Complementation of in vivo studies for NT, DNT, DT to provide important information on MoA of chemicals.

Descriptions of Assays

Our assays cover crucial functional endpoints for (developmental) neurotoxicity testing:

  • Assay to test viability and impairment of migration of human neural crest cells (cMINC; UKN2);
  • Assay to test compound-derived impairment in neurite outgrowth in human mature dopaminergic neurons (NeuriTox; UKN4);
  • Assay to test compound-derived impairment in neurite outgrowth in human iPSC-derived immature dorsal root ganglia (iDRG) neurons (PeriTox; UKN5).
  • Neurofunctional assays based on receptor interactions, for dopamine transporter and assessing network formation (e.g. assessment of Ca²+ signaling and electrical activity on multi-electrodes arrays);
  • Assays for neuroprotective drug candidates in conventional cell cultures and complex organoids.

Assay to test viability and impairment of migration of human neural crest cells (cMINC; UKN2).

This in vitro test method uses human neural crest cells (NCCs) generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). It assesses disturbances of NCC function during fetal development. The number of migrated NCC, as well as cell viability are measured simultaneously using high content imaging. The data of this method are meant to predict developmental disorders and malformations e.g. neural tube defects or craniofacial malformations caused by compound exposure during fetal development. The method has a well-established prediction model, and it has been used in the screening of several medium-sized compound libraries.

Assay to test compound-derived impairment in neurite outgrowth in human mature dopaminergic neurons (NeuriTox; UKN4).

This in vitro test method is based on human neurons (LUHMES cells) at a stage of neurite growth (day 2 of differentiation). It assesses (a) disturbances in the development of the nervous system/brain structures, and (b) direct damage to the adult nervous system, by exposure to toxicants.

Variant 1: The neurite area (which serves as indirect measurement of neuronal interconnectivity) of stained differentiating neurons, as well as cellular viability are measured simultaneously at 24 h after toxicant exposure using high content imaging. The processes of neurite outgrowth and cell death are measured.

Variant 2: The neurite area (which serves as indirect measurement of neuronal interconnectivity) of stained differentiating neurons, as well as cellular viability are measured simultaneously at 24 h after toxicant exposure using high content imaging. The processes of neurite outgrowth and cell death are measured. Assessment is performed in the presence of either galactose or glucose. The ratios (glucose/galactose) are used to predict mitochondrial toxicity.

Variant 3: The proteasomal function of cells is assessed at 24 h after toxicant exposure by a fluorogenic substrate that increases in fluorescence when the proteasome is active.

Variant 4: The intracellular ATP level of the neurons is assessed at 24 h after toxicant exposure. It is assumed that dead cells do not contain ATP. Thus, the population ATP level is used as indirect measure of cell death. The rate of mitochondrial metabolism, measured by oxygen consumption, is assessed directly (within 15 minutes) after exposure.

The data of this method are meant to predict (a) developmental disorders caused by compound exposure during fetal development, and (b) damage to the developed nervous system, in particular to dopaminergic parts of the nervous system. The method has been used in the screening of medium-sized compound libraries, has undergone some mechanistic evaluation, and has been linked to AOP-3 (parkinsonian motor deficits).

Assay to test compound-derived impairment in neurite outgrowth in human iPSC-derived immature dorsal root ganglia (iDRG) neurons (PeriTox; UKN5).

This in vitro test method is based on human iPSC-derived immature dorsal root ganglia (iDRG) neurons at a stage of neurite growth. It assesses (a) disturbances in the development of the (peripheral) nervous system, and (b) direct damage to the peripheral nervous system, by exposure to toxicants. The neurite area (which serves as indirect measurement of neuronal interconnectivity) of stained differentiating neurons, as well as cellular viability are measured simultaneously using high content imaging. The processes of neurite outgrowth and cell death are measured. The data of this method are meant to predict (a) developmental disorders in children caused by compound exposure during fetal development, and (b) damage to the developed nervous system, in particular to the peripheral nervous system. The method predicts neurotoxicity. It has been used in the screening of medium-sized compound libraries, and has undergone some mechanistic evaluation, and been linked to AOP-279 (AOPwiki ID) / ETR09N (EU-ToxRisk AOP task ID) (Peripheral neuropathy caused by microtubule interacting drugs).