Imaging retinal ganglion cells: Enabling experimental technology for clinical application

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Recent advances in clinical ophthalmic imaging have enhanced patient care. However, the ability to differentiate retinal neurons, such as retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), would advance many areas within ophthalmology, including the screening and monitoring of glaucoma and other optic neuropathies. Imaging at the single cell level would take diagnostics to the next level. Experimental methods have provided techniques and insight into imaging RGCs, however no method has yet to be translated to clinical application. This review provides an overview of the importance of non-invasive imaging of RGCs and the clinically relevant capabilities. In addition, we report on experimental data from wild-type mice that received an in vivo intravitreal injection of a neuronal tracer that labelled RGCs, which in turn were monitored for up to 100 days post-injection with confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy. We were able to demonstrate efficient and consistent RGC labelling with this delivery method and discuss the issue of cell specificity. This type of experimental work is important in progressing towards clinically applicable methods for monitoring loss of RGCs in glaucoma and other optic neuropathies. We discuss the challenges to translating these findings to clinical application and how this method of tracking RGCs in vivo could provide valuable structural and functional information to clinicians.

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