Three experimental glaucoma models in rats: Comparison of the effects of intraocular pressure elevation on retinal ganglion cell size and death

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Glaucoma is a chronic and progressive optic nerve neuropathy involving the death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is considered to be the major risk factor associated with the development of this neuropathy. The objective of the present study was to compare the effects on RGC survival of three different experimental methods to induce chronic elevation of IOP in rats. These methods were: (i) injections of latex microspheres into the eye anterior chamber; (ii) injections into the anterior chamber of a mixture of microspheres plus hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPM) and (iii) cauterization of three episcleral veins. The IOP of right (control) and left (glaucomatous) eyes was measured with an applanation tonometer in awake animals. Thirteen to 30 weeks later, RGCs were retrogradely labeled with 3% fluorogold. Subsequently, we analyzed the density of RGCs, as well as the major axis length and area of RGC soma resulting from the application of each method. A significant increase in IOP was found following application of each of the three methods. Cell death was evident in the glaucomatous eyes as compared to controls. However, no statistical differences were found between the extent of cell death associated with each of the three methods. IOP increase also induced a significant increase in the size of the soma of the remaining RGCs. In conclusion, the three methods used to increase IOP induce a similar degree of RGC death. Moreover, the extent of cell death was similar when the retinas were maintained under conditions of elevated IOP for 24 weeks in comparison to 13 weeks.

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