January 1991
Volume 32, Issue 1
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Articles  |   January 1991
Sprouting of corneal sensory fibers in rats treated at birth with capsaicin.
Author Affiliations
  • C S Ogilvy
    Neurosurgical Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.
  • K R Silverberg
    Neurosurgical Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.
  • L F Borges
    Neurosurgical Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science January 1991, Vol.32, 112-121. doi:
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      C S Ogilvy, K R Silverberg, L F Borges; Sprouting of corneal sensory fibers in rats treated at birth with capsaicin.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1991;32(1):112-121.

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Abstract

Normal structure and function of corneal epithelium is known to be related to proper innervation. To investigate possible trophic actions of sensory neurons on corneal epithelium, corneal innervation and various physical parameters were studied in normal rats and in rats treated as neonates with intraperitoneal injections of capsaicin. Corneal lesions were noted in treated rats which varied from multiple punctate areas of corneal opacity to deep stromal opacity with ulceration and neovascularization. These lesions waxed and waned throughout the animal's life. In addition, mechanical threshold of the corneal reflex was higher in capsaicin-treated rats. The tear rate in response to a provocative test was diminished in treated rats, presumably due to reduced afferent trigeminal input to the brain stem; blinking rates were more frequent in these animals. Using fluorescent retrograde tracing techniques, the number of cells innervating the cornea in capsaicin-treated rats was found to be significantly less compared with control animals. Innervation in the cornea (examined using a gold chloride technique) demonstrated a decrease in the number of corneal large axons in treated rats with neurite sprouting of these axons yielding a higher density of nerve fibers compared with controls. Thus, sprouting of residual sensory neurons occurs in response to the partial corneal denervation produced by capsaicin, and this sprouting does not functionally compensate to prevent the development of chronic keratitis.

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