Glaucoma is a disease characterized by irreversible damage of optic nerve affecting millions of Americans. Yet details of the underlying disease mechanism are still unclear. While recognizing the crucial role of intraocular pressure (IOP), autoregulation (AR) dysfunction has been proposed as a cause of circulatory aberrations in the optic nerve head (ONH) associated with glaucomatous optic neuropathy. Autoregulation in the normal ONH initiated by an ocular perfusion pressure change contains two phases: an initial dynamic phase (dAR) when vascular smooth muscles dilate and contract to adjust the vascular resistance in an attempt to return blood flow (BF) to its original level;and a later steady-state phase (sAR) when dynamic BF changes have equilibrated to a steady level. Due primarily to methodological limitations, most previous studies in human and experimental glaucoma have assessed only sAR and failed to detect AR dysfunction in the ONH. With a modified laser speckle flowgraphy device (LSFG) and newly established methods for measuring the dAR and sAR, this proposal will test the following central hypothesis: Chronic IOP elevation induces AR dysfunction in the ONH, which importantly contributes to the pathophysiology of glaucomatous ONH damage. This hypothesis will be tested in three Specific Aims.
Specific Aim 1 : To test the hypothesis that ONH dAR abnormalities develop early in the monkey experimental glaucoma model, that they precede sAR and bBF alterations and that they progress in parallel with clinical measures of ONH and RNFL structural disruption.
Specific Aim 2 : To test the hypothesis that the ONH AR abnormalities occurring in the monkey model of experimental glaucoma are a primary result of exposure to chronic IOP elevation rather than a secondary result of neurodegeneration. Specifically, we will test the prediction that AR abnormalities will not develop in two alternative, non-IOP-related, axonal injury models - optic nerve transection and intra-retinal laser axotomy.
Specific Aim 3 : the ONH tissues obtained from the animals studied in Specific Aims 1 and 2 will be used to carry out two postmortem histological studies: 3A) To assess regional BF in the monkey ONH using a state-of-the-art microsphere method and compare these measurements with the LSFG bBF estimates obtained immediately prior to sacrifice;and 3B) To test the hypothesis that AR dysfunction detected in vivo by LSFG is associated with derangement of the relationship between ONH astrocytes, lamina cribrosacytes and the blood vessels within the underlying laminar beams and peripapillary scleral beam insertions. In a follow up R01 proposal we expect to extend our investigation in: 1) clinical application by modifying the current techniques of dAR analysis to noninvasively so as to elicit a controlled ONH dAR response. 2) Characterization of ONH astrocytes and lamina cribrosacyte role in ONH AR using 3D electron microscopic reconstructions and fresh ONH tissue slice preparations. 3) To test the hypothesis of age-related alterations between astrocytes and capillary endothelial/pericytes in AR.
This project seeks evidence of autoregulation (AR) dysfunction in the optic nerve head and its role in pathogenesis of glaucoma as well as to develop and assess a method for its clinical detection. These developments will make the detection of AR dysfunction in human ocular hypertensive and glaucoma patients a credible goal and the presence of AR dysfunction a therapeutic target for the treatment of the disease.
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