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Using the Optical Fractionator to Estimate Total Cell Numbers in the Normal and Abnormal Developing Human Forebrain

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Human fetal brain development is a complex process which is vulnerable to disruption at many stages. Although histogenesis is well-documented, only a few studies have quantified cell numbers across normal human fetal brain growth. Due to the present lack of normative data it is difficult to gauge abnormal development. Furthermore, many studies of brain cell numbers have employed biased counting methods, whereas innovations in stereology during the past 20-30 years enable reliable and efficient estimates of cell numbers. However, estimates of cell volumes and densities in fetal brain samples are unreliable due to unpredictable shrinking artifacts, and the fragility of the fetal brain requires particular care in handling and processing. The optical fractionator design offers a direct and robust estimate of total cell numbers in the fetal brain with a minimum of handling of the tissue. Bearing this in mind, we have used the optical fractionator to quantify the growth of total cell numbers as a function of fetal age. We discovered a two-phased development in total cell numbers in the human fetal forebrain consisting of an initial steep rise in total cell numbers between 13 and 20 weeks of gestation, followed by a slower linear phase extending from mid-gestation to 40 weeks of gestation. Furthermore, we have demonstrated a reduced total cell number in the forebrain in fetuses with Down syndome at midgestation and in intrauterine growth-restricted fetuses during the third trimester.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftFrontiers in Neuroanatomy
Vol/bind11
Sider (fra-til)112
ISSN1662-5129
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2017

ID: 52602021