Cell death and proliferation characteristics of the retina after optic nerve section in chickens
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Optic nerve section (ONS) is an experimental model for damage of the optic nerve associated with diseases such as glaucoma and optic neuritis. Damage to the optic nerve causes loss of retinal ganglion cells that are attached, once the cells are damaged, they are not typically replaced. Recently, Fischer and Reh (2003) found that Müller glia have the potential to adopt phenotypes and functional capabilities similar to those of retinal progenitors, a potential source of retinal regeneration. In the chick, when the specific retinal cells are targeted for damage by chemotoxins, there is widespread apoptosis but also mitotically active cells that label with retinal progenitor markers. Fischer and Reh (2002) also discovered that the combination of growth factors FGF2 and insulin is capable of stimulating the regenerative response of the Müller glia to retinal progenitor cells in chick eyes. This study was conducted to analyse damage to the ganglion cells by optic nerve section in chicks to determine the effect of age on the cell death timeline, the proliferative qualities of the retina and to see if injections of growth factors had the ability to increase the proliferation. Histological methods were used to analyse cellular changes and ultrasound to monitor eye growth. Apoptotic activity preceded retinal thinning and ganglion cell loss, indicating that ONS-related cell death is mediated at least in part by apoptotic mechanisms and age did not affect the time course, although, age did affect the eye growth changes, which may be attributed to the plasticity of the younger eyes. ONS damage elicited proliferative activity in the retina as did growth factor injections alone. The combination of ONS damage and growth factor injections increased the proliferative activity and the overall total number of cells in the ganglion cell layer. These findings can potentially lead to the development of therapeutic strategies for the preservation or restoration of retinal cells in diseased eyes.