Tailed amphibians such as axolotis and newts have the unique ability to fully regenerate a functional spinal cord throughout life. Where the cells come from and how they form the new structure is still poorly understood. Here, we describe the development of a technique that allows the visualization of cells in the living animal during spinal cord regeneration. A microelectrode needle is inserted into the lumen of the spinal cord and short rapid pulses are applied to transfer the plasmids encoding the green or red fluorescent proteins into ependymal cells close to the plane of amputation. The use of small, transparent axolotis permits imaging with epifluorescence and differential interference contrast microscopy to track the transfected cells as they contribute to the spinal cord. This technique promises to be useful in understanding how neural progenitors are recruited to the regenerating spinal cord and opens up the possibility of testing gene function during this process.
- Spinal cord