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Benjamin J. Yungher, Márcio Ribeiro, Kevin K. Park; Regenerative Responses and Axon Pathfinding of Retinal Ganglion Cells in Chronically Injured Mice. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(3):1743-1750. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.16-19873.
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Enhanced regeneration of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons can be achieved by modification of numerous neuronal-intrinsic factors. However, axon growth initiation and the pathfinding behavior of these axons after traumatic injury remain poorly understood outside of acute injury paradigms, despite the clinical relevance of more chronic settings. We therefore examined RGC axon regeneration following therapeutic delivery that is postponed until 2 months after optic nerve crush injury.
Optic nerve regeneration was induced by virally mediated (adeno-associated virus) ciliary neurotrophic factor (AAV-CNTF) administered either immediately or 56 days after optic nerve crush in wild-type or Bax knockout (KO) mice. Retinal ganglion nerve axon regeneration was assessed 21 and 56 days after viral injection. Immunohistochemical analysis of RGC injury signals and extrinsic factors in the optic nerve were also examined at 5 and 56 days post crush.
In addition to sustained expression of injury response proteins in surviving RGCs, we observe axon regrowth in wild-type and apoptosis-deficient Bax KO mice following AAV-CNTF treatment. Fewer instances of aberrant axon growth are seen, at least in the area near the lesion site, in animals given treatment 56 days after crush injury compared to the animals given treatment immediately after injury. We also find evidence of long distance growth into a visual target in Bax KO mice despite postponed initiation of this regenerative program.
These studies provide evidence against an intrinsic critical period for RGC axon regeneration or degradation of injury signals. Regeneration results from Bax KO mice imply highly sustained regenerative capacity in RGCs, highlighting the importance of long-lasting neuroprotective strategies as well as of RGC axon guidance research in chronically injured animals.
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