Astrocytes are a major class of glia in the vertebrate retina. They are located primarily within the innermost retinal layers;their processes surround retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons and axon bundles as well as all blood vessels. Because of this anatomical relationship, and a variety of physiological evidence, astrocytes are thought to have a major role in the mechanisms of retinal blood flow autoregulation, i.e. the maintenance of nearly constant blood flow in response to variations of ocular perfusion pressure. Astrocytes are also thought to play an important role in the pathophysiology of many ocular diseases by responding to a variety of insults such as ischemia, increased intraocular pressure and neuronal degeneration in a manner that has been characterized as gliosis. Hence, the ability to image astrocytes in vivo could help to elucidate aspects of disease pathophysiology. Similarly, there is evidence to suggest that RGC axonal cytoskeletal components, specifically microtubules, are disrupted during the earliest stages of response to experimental injuries such as axotomy and experimental glaucoma. This disruption is significant because microtubules are the """"""""tracks"""""""" upon which axonal transport is driven. Thus, if microtubule abnormalities develop early in response to injury, the resultant axonal transport disruption could exacerbate the injury and inhibit protective or rescue responses from achieving full potential. The overall goal of this R21 project is to develop the methods for imaging retinal astrocytes, RGCs, their axons and axonal transport in vivo. The specific objectives are as follows:
Specific Aim 1 : To establish methodologies for in vivo visualization of retinal astrocytes, RGCs, their axons and active axonal transport in the rat eye. To evaluate the optimal concentration, follow-up duration and persistence of in vivo markers as well as perform histopathological studies to corroborate in vivo observations.
Specific Aim 2 : To evaluate potential toxicity of in vivo astrocyte markers and axonal transport tracers using sensitive measures of retinal function (electroretinography, ERG) and retinal structure (spectral domain optical coherence tomography, SDOCT), so as to assess potential for use in primate experimental models.
Specific Aim 3 : To evaluate the sensitivity of our newly developed methods by comparing the impact of four unilateral experimental injury models (intravitreal injection of nocodazole/colchicine to disrupt axonal microtubules and inhibit active axonal transport;acute elevation of intraocular pressure;chronic elevation of intraocular pressure;and optic nerve crush) with results obtained in bilateral control eyes. The novel methods developed in this proposal will make possible in future proposals, studies about the onset of astrocyte abnormalities and RGC axonal transport abnormalities and comparisons of those phenomena to the course of RGC and axonal degeneration in experimental models of RGC injury.

Public Health Relevance

Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness in the United States and around the world. It is a chronic disease with no known cure. Though prospective longitudinal trials have found that treatment to lower intraocular pressure decreases the rate of progressive vision loss, some individuals continue to lose vision despite successful therapy to lower their intraocular pressure. Thus, a more thorough understanding of the events leading to damage and vision loss in glaucoma is required. The goal of this project is to develop methods for evaluating two groups of cells and aspects of their function in the living eye using specialized imaging techniques.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-ETTN-E (92))
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Agarwal, Neeraj
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Emanuel Hospital and Health Center
United States
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Abbott, Carla J; Choe, Tiffany E; Lusardi, Theresa A et al. (2014) Evaluation of retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and axonal transport 1 and 2 weeks after 8 hours of acute intraocular pressure elevation in rats. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 55:674-87
Abbott, Carla J; Choe, Tiffany E; Burgoyne, Claude F et al. (2014) Comparison of retinal nerve fiber layer thickness in vivo and axonal transport after chronic intraocular pressure elevation in young versus older rats. PLoS One 9:e114546
Choe, Tiffany E; Abbott, Carla J; Piper, Chelsea et al. (2014) Comparison of longitudinal in vivo measurements of retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and retinal ganglion cell density after optic nerve transection in rat. PLoS One 9:e113011
Abbott, Carla J; Choe, Tiffany E; Lusardi, Theresa A et al. (2013) Imaging axonal transport in the rat visual pathway. Biomed Opt Express 4:364-86