New Pre-Conference Symposium tackles preclinical modeling of stroke

A new ISC 2014 pre-conference symposium will introduce important training concepts to those who are early in their careers by providing insights on the next generation of preclinical modeling of stroke.


S. Thomas Carmichael, MD, PhD, FAHA

The Feb. 11 program, “ISC Pre-Conference Symposium II (Student, Trainee and Early Career): Animal Models 2.0: Co-morbid Conditions, Optogenetics and Other New Directions,” will be moderated by S. Thomas Carmichael, MD, PhD, FAHA, professor of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.

“Neuroscience in general is a field really driven by technology, and so part of any symposium for trainees in the field of neuroscience in stroke should cover the latest technologies and methods,” he said. “In preclinical modeling, we’ve achieved kind of a next phase overall. Many of the initial uses of preclinical models were in the 1990s and early 2000s, and they were structured around understanding cell death and trying to promote neuroprotection — in other words, a reduced amount of stroke damage.

“These models evolved in kind of a standard platform or protocol, and what we’ve done now is move a level above that in terms of sophistication and in terms of what we measure, how we measure it and some of the biology that we can understand during stroke.”

Carmichael, who also is vice chair of research and programs for the department of neurology at UCLA, said planners had two goals for the symposium.

One is to help participants understand the functional effects of stroke — from initial damage to subsequent repair — in preclinical models, so they can gain the means for better interrogation of true brain function.

“A second goal is for participants to understand how stroke is modeled in more clinically relevant ways that involve males and females, age and other co-morbid conditions that are relevant to the human situation,” Carmichael said. “That has been neglected in preclinical modeling on a routine basis.”

The symposium will offer four speakers. “They are great speakers. All four not only are experts, but they can provoke discussion, challenge concepts and enliven things, so they are going to be a lot of fun to have in the same room,” Carmichael said.

The talks will focus on:

  • “Female Sex and Age in Animal Models of Stroke” with Louise D. McCullough, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and neuroscience and director of stroke research at the University of Connecticut, Farmington
  • “New and More Sophisticated Pre-clinical Stroke Outcome Measures” with Theresa A. Jones, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin
  • In Vivo Imaging of Stroke Damage and Recovery” with Craig E. Brown, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Medical Sciences at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  • “Primate Models of Stroke Neuroprotection and Neural Repair” with D.J. Cook, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

In particular, Brown’s talk will also focus on optogenetics, which Carmichael described as the use of molecules that can indicate cell shape, neural connections, blood flow and the overall physiological state of brain tissue over time in living animals.

“This is done with genetic coding of ‘reporter’ molecules that are florescent and can be seen through a microscope in the living animal. That’s the optical part, and the genetic part, of course, is that you make it so that these things turn on or turn off in cells over time in the living animal,” Carmichael said. “The power with optogenetics is that you can determine in real time what’s happening in stroke and in stroke brain repair. It’s also more sophisticated, so we can view in more detail structure and function in the brain and visualize damage, repair and recovery.”

Carmichael said he was hopeful that participants would return home with the same kind of knowledge that he gained when he attended such courses as a trainee.

“I remember fondly my days just starting out,” he said. “I felt it was key to take something in that would help build my career — both in terms of the direct scientific development and an understanding of how a field is evolving.”