Comparison of rates of neuronal development and survival in human and rat cerebral cortical cell cultures

Mark P. Mattson, Barbara Rychlik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


A problem that has not been addressed directly at the cellular and molecular levels concerns the basic mechanisms governing rates of development and aging in the nervous system. We have begun to examine this problem by employing parallel cell cultures of cerebral cortical neurons taken from rat and man, two species with markedly different developmental periods and life spans. Cortical cultures were established from rat and human fetuses and were maintained under identical conditions. Long-term neuronal survival in human cortical cultures was strikingly greater than in rat cortical cultures, and axonal outgrowth was significantly slower in the human neurons. These differences were consistently observed in a variety of culture media. Exchanges of culture medium between cultures of the two species did not alter the differences in neuronal survival and axon outgrowth suggesting that the differences between human and rat neurons were probably not due to factors released into the culture medium. Furthermore, the differences were not related to developmental stage at the time of culture initiation since similar results were obtained in cultures established from fetuses of different gestational ages. These initial data indicate that differences in the developmental time courses and life spans of human and rat cerebral cortex are reflected at the level of the individual neuron, and provide a system in which to explore the mechanisms responsible for these differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-187
Number of pages17
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon outgrowth
  • Cell culture
  • Cerebral cortex
  • Human
  • Neuronal death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Biochemistry
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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