Pure traumatic neuronal injury was modeled in dispersed neocortical cell cultures derived from fetal mice. A plastic stylet was used to tear the neuronal and glial cell layer; medium oxygen content, pH, and glucose remained unchanged. Adjacent to this local disruption, many neurons developed acute swelling and went on to degenerate over the next day, but glia were relatively spared. If the same mechanical insult was delivered in the presence of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists dextrorphan or d-2-amino-5-phosphonoval-erate, resultant neuronal degeneration was markedly reduced. The protective effect of these NMDA antagonists was concentration-dependent between 1 and 100 μM, with EC50 near 10 μM for both compounds. Present findings suggest that endogenous excitatory amino acids may participate significantly in the propagation of central neuronal cell loss in response to a purely mechanical insult.
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