NIH Research Festival
Glaucoma is a visual disease characterized by the continuous and gradual death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). To assess the mechanisms that lead to RGC damage in glaucomatous optic neuropathy (GON), we performed optic nerve crush surgery on the 13-lined ground squirrel, Ictidomys tridecemlineatus. The advantage of ground squirrels is that they can hibernate in winter, and several reports show that hibernation can provide some unclear protective mechanisms against injuries during hibernation. The RGC survival as well as the molecular and cellular changes at the optic nerve wound site at different time points post surgery were evaluated in winter active and hibernating ground squirrels. Much like in mice and rats, experimental optic nerve crush led to RGC apoptosis in active ground squirrels. On the contrary, the cell death rate of the RGC population significantly decreased in hibernating animals. Most notably, the cellular and molecular responses at the optic nerve wound site in hibernating animals are profoundly different from those of active animals. Therefore, hibernation helps to protect the ground squirrel's visual system against experimental GON. Finding the neuroprotective mechanisms that aid the ground squirrel in RGC protection during hibernation may inspire effective therapeutic strategies in treating patients with glaucoma.
Scientific Focus Area: Neuroscience
This page was last updated on Friday, March 26, 2021