Using Cell Cultures for the Investigation of Treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(10):916-925. doi: 10.2174/1570159X17666190409143155.


Background: Advances in basic and molecular biology have promoted the use of cell cultures in a wide range of areas, including the evaluation of drug efficacy, safety and toxicity.

Objective: This article aims to provide a general overview of the methodological parameters of cell cultures used to investigate therapeutic options for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Method: A systematic search was performed in the electronic databases PubMed, Scopus, and DOAJ. In vitro experimental studies using cell cultures were included.

Results: A total of 328 studies were initially identified, with 16 included for qualitative synthesis. Seven studies used neuronal cells (SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma and PC12 cell line) and nine used nonneuronal cells. All the studies described the culture conditions, but most studies were inconsistent with regard to reporting results and raw data. Only one-third of the studies performed cell viability assays, while a further 30% conducted gene expression analysis. Other additional tests included electrophysiological evaluation and transporter activity. More than 50% of the studies evaluated the effects of drugs such as methylphenidate and atomoxetine, while plant extracts were assessed in four studies and polyunsaturated fatty acids in one.

Conclusion: We suggested a flowchart to guide the planning and execution of studies, and a checklist to be completed by authors to allow the standardized reporting of results. This may guide the elaboration of laboratory protocols and further in vitro studies.

Keywords: ADHD; ADHD treatment; Cell model; checklist; flowchart; methodological aspect; neuronal cell..

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride / therapeutic use
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use
  • Neurons


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride