You are viewing a javascript disabled version of the site. Please enable Javascript for this site to function properly.
Go to headerGo to navigationGo to searchGo to contentsGo to footer
In content section. Select this link to jump to navigation

Restoration of vision IV: role of compensatory soma swelling of surviving retinal ganglion cells in recovery of vision after optic nerve crush


Purpose: Diffuse axonal injury following partial optic nerve crush (ONC) leads to severe visual deficits from which rats can partially recover within 2-3 weeks. To evaluate tbc role of surviving retinal ganglion cells (RGCS) in recovery, we have observed their morphology repeatedly in vivo with ICON-microscopy and correlated cell size changes with recovery of vision which we observed in parallel in the same animals. Methods: After rats had learned a visual contrast discrimination task using an automated, computer-based test, RGCs were labeled retrogradely with fluorescent beads. Animals then received either no lesion, a complete axotomy or bilateral mild, moderate or severe ONC. Before surgery and for 40 days post-operatively, ROC number and soma size was repeatedly quantified every five days with tbc in vivo confocal neuroimaging method (Sabel et al., Nature med. 3, 1997, p. 244). In parallel, visual function was quantified with the contrast-discrimination task. Results: After ONC about 70 % of the ROCs died after having undergone a fast and massive soma swelling. The extent of cell death was independent of crush severity. RGCs surviving the injury did not change their body size over time in the severe group and these animals also did not recover their vision. In contrast, after a mild or moderate crush, about half of the surviving RGCs experienced a slow and moderate, "compensatory" cell soma swelling and the rats showed partial recovery of vision. Both the number of RGCs showing such compensatory soma swelling and the extent of the swelling correlated highly (r = 0.96) with recovery of contrast discrimination performance at post-operative days 23 and 38. Conclusions., Depending en the time course and extent, soma swelling after neurotrauma may be associated either with cell death or recovery of function. Because of the very high correlation between extent of recovery and amount of soma swelling, moderate soma swelling contributes in a prominent way to recovery of vision. We believe that these cells provide an important structural substrate for neuronal tissue repair and therefore term these cells "compensatory neurons".