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Vidisha Goyal, A. Thomas Read, Dillon M. Brown, Luke Brawer, Kaitlyn Bateh, Bailey G. Hannon, Andrew J. Feola, C. Ross Ethier; Morphometric Analysis of Retinal Ganglion Cell Axons in Normal and Glaucomatous Brown Norway Rats Optic Nerves. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2023;12(3):8. https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.12.3.8.
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A reference atlas of optic nerve (ON) retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons could facilitate studies of neuro-ophthalmic diseases by detecting subtle RGC axonal changes. Here we construct an RGC axonal atlas for normotensive eyes in Brown Norway rats, widely used in glaucoma research, and also develop/evaluate several novel metrics of axonal damage in hypertensive eyes.
Light micrographs of entire ON cross-sections from hypertensive and normotensive eyes were processed through a deep learning-based algorithm, AxoNet2.0, to determine axonal morphological properties and were semiquantitatively scored using the Morrison grading scale (MGS) to provide a damage score independent of AxoNet2.0 outcomes. To construct atlases, ONs were conformally mapped onto an ON “template,” and axonal morphometric data was computed for each region. We also developed damage metrics based on myelin morphometry.
In normotensive eyes, average axon density was ∼0.3 axons/µm2 (i.e., ∼80,000 axons in an ON). We measured axoplasm diameter, eccentricity, cross-sectional area, and myelin g-ratio and thickness. Most morphological parameters exhibited a wide range of coefficients of variation (CoV); however, myelin thickness CoV was only ∼2% in normotensive eyes. In hypertensive eyes, increased myelin thickness correlated strongly with MGS (P < 0.0001).
We present the first comprehensive normative RGC axon morphometric atlas for Brown Norway rat eyes. We suggest objective, repeatable damage metrics based on RGC axon myelin thickness for hypertensive eyes.
These tools can evaluate regional changes in RGCs and overall levels of damage in glaucoma studies using Brown Norway rats.
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