Parkinson's Disease Rat Models

The loss of nigrostriatal dopamine neurons and reduced motor abilities are consequences of Parkinson's Disease. Mutations in the LRRK2 and alpha synuclein (SNCA) genes are associated with familial Parkinson's disease and affect the nigrostriatal pathway.

The rat as an experimental organism can offer some unique strengths compared to mice:

  • rats can perform more sophisticated behavioral tasks,
  • are better suited for electrophysiological multichannel recordings, and
  • the nigrostriatal circuit of the rat is more sensitive to insults than that of mice.

The Michael J Fox Foundation Sponsored Rats for Parkinson’s Research

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Surgically Induced Models of Parkinson's Disease

Unilateral 6-Hydroxydopamine Lesion of the Nigrostriatal Pathway
  • Animal models in which central dopamine neurons have been destroyed are used to study the neurodegenerative disease process associated with Parkinson's disease.
  • Administration of the neurotoxin, 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), into certain brain areas produces selective destruction of catecholamine (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine) neurotransmitter neurons.
  • The unilateral destruction of dopamine neurons causes a chemical imbalance of the brain hemispheric content of dopamine.
  • Because of this chemical imbalance or asymmetry; the administration of certain dopamine agonists, such as apomorphine, causes stimulation of intact dopamine neurons in the unaffected brain hemisphere.
  • This asymmetric stimulation is behaviorally manifested by locomotion in the direction of the unaffected hemisphere; the animal runs in circles.
  • The quantification of circling behavior can be used to access the efficacy of therapeutic agents which may be used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.