Validation of the Fetal Lamb Model of Spina Bifida.

Scientific reports (2019-06-30)
Luc Joyeux, Alexander C Engels, Johannes Van Der Merwe, Michael Aertsen, Premal A Patel, Marjolijn Deprez, Ahmad Khatoun, Savitree Pranpanus, Marina Gabriela Monteiro Carvalho Mori da Cunha, Stephanie De Vleeschauwer, Johanna Parra, Katerina Apelt, Myles Mc Laughlin, Frank Van Calenbergh, Enrico Radaelli, Jan Deprest

A randomized trial demonstrated that fetal spina bifida (SB) repair is safe and effective yet invasive. New less invasive techniques are proposed but are not supported by adequate experimental studies. A validated animal model is needed to bridge the translational gap to the clinic and should mimic the human condition. Introducing a standardized method, we comprehensively and reliably characterize the SB phenotype in two lamb surgical models with and without myelotomy as compared to normal lambs. Hindbrain herniation measured on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included gross examination with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage test, neurological examination with locomotor assessment, whole-body MRI, motor and somatosensory evoked potentials; brain, spinal cord, hindlimb muscles, bladder and rectum histology and/or immunohistochemistry. We show that the myelotomy model best phenocopies the anatomy, etiopathophysiology and symptomatology of non-cystic SB. This encompasses hindbrain herniation, ventriculomegaly, posterior fossa anomalies, loss of brain neurons; lumbar CSF leakage, hindlimb somatosensory-motor deficit with absence of motor and somatosensory evoked potentials due to loss of spinal cord neurons, astroglial cells and myelin; urinary incontinence. This model obtains the highest validity score for SB animal models and is adequate to assess the efficacy of novel fetal therapies.