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NC3Rs: National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research
CRACK IT Solution

Neuroinflammation and nociception in a dish

Neuroinflammation and nociception in a dish

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  • Replacement


Pain management is an important aspect of clinical medicine, however animal models used to further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying physiological or pathological pain are associated with severe suffering and often do not fully address the complex and subjective nature of pain.

To address some of these difficulties, Professor Adalberto Merighi and his team from the Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Turin, Italy has developed acute and organotypically cultured spinal cord slices and have demonstrated that they can provide unique insight into the central mechanisms of nociception and neuroinflammation.

Through CRACK IT Solutions, Professor Merighi sought collaborators to help further develop and validate these innovative spinal cord slice platforms (SCSPs) for studying nociception and neuroinflammation ex vivo, and for preclinical development of novel therapeutics. With CRACK IT Solutions funding, he is now working with a team led by Professor Eustace Johnson at the University of Chester, UK. Together, they will use the SCSP model to study the effects of transplanting mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs), which have been proposed as a clinical treatment for spinal cord injury, into the spinal cord to better understand their effects on neuroinflammation, central neuropathic pain and neuronal hyperexcitability.

Traditionally these experiments would have been carried out in vivo in large numbers of micecausing substantial suffering to the animals involved. In one published example, 453 adult mice were used to show that early transplantation of MSCs after spinal cord injury relieves pain hypersensitivity. However, using this system instead has the potential to reduce the number of animals used by up to 50%, as multiple slices can be cultured from a single animal.

Full details about this CRACK IT Solution and the outputs of the funded project can be found on the CRACK IT website.


Lossi L,  Merighi A (2018). The Use of ex Vivo Rodent Platforms in Neuroscience Translational Research With Attention to the 3Rs Philosophy. Front. Vet. Sci. 5, 164;