Infection of Organotypic Cultures of Spinal Cord and Dorsal Root Ganglia with Trypanosoma Cruzi

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  • Departments of Medicine (Infectious Disease Division), Pathology (Parasitology Division), Neurosciences, The Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology, The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Center for Research in Mental Retardation and Human Development, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, New York 10461
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Abstract. Although the involvement of the nervous system in Chagas' disease is well described, the mechanism of the neuronal destruction is unclear. Immunologic, toxic mechanisms and direct invasion have been advocated. Organotypic cultures of spinal cord and dorsal root ganglion derived from Swiss outbred mice were infected with the Brazil strain of Trypanosoma cruzi. Light microscopic and ultrastructural studies were performed at regular intervals. It was found that trypomastigotes were rapidly taken up by glial and other supporting cells. Neurons were rarely parasitized and demyelination was not evident. Loss of several cytoskeletal components was seen. Dendrites were swollen and axons lost their normal filamentous structures but synaptic membranes remained intact. Mitochondrial swelling was evident even in nonparasitized neurons from infected cultures. By 7–10 days of infection the majority of neurons lost their typical morphology and were eventually destroyed by mechanisms other than direct parasite invasion. Organotypic cultures exposed to T. cruzi