Ischemic optic neuropathy (ION) is a common disorder caused by disruption of the arterial blood supply to the optic nerve. It can result in significant loss of visual acuity and/or visual field. An ischemic optic nerve injury was produced in rats by intravenous injection of Rose Bengal dye followed by argon green laser application to the retinal arteries overlying the optic nerve, causing a coagulopathy within the blood vessels and disruption of optic nerve and retinal perfusion. The effect of brimonidine tartrate eye drops on survival of retinal ganglion cell axons in this experimental paradigm was studied. One eye was treated and the contralateral eye served as a control. Four groups of animals were used for this study. Group 1 received 7 days of treatment with 0.15% brimonidine tartrate eye drops twice a day prior to the ischemic injury. Group 2 animals received 0.15% brimonidine tartrate eye drops twice a day for 14 days after photocoagulation injury. Animal groups 3 and 4 received eye drops of 0.9% NaCl twice a day either daily for 7 days before injury or daily for 14 days, respectively. All rats were sacrificed 5 months after the injury to ascertain long-term optic axon survival. Coagulopathy-induced optic nerve ischemia resulted in a 71% loss of optic axons. Treatment with brimonidine daily for the 7 days prior to the injury resulted in a greater survival of optic axons, with only a 56.1% loss compared to control. Brimonidine treatment every day for 14 days after the ischemic injury did not result in a significant rescue of optic axons compared to injury alone. In summary, the application of brimonidine eye drops for one week prior to an ischemic injury resulted in a statistically significant increase in survival of optic axons within the injured optic nerves. Brimonidine treatment of the eye after the ischemic injury did not result in axon rescue, and axon loss was similar to the injured optic nerves treated with saline only. These results suggest that brimonidine may have potential use for prevention of ION in at-risk patients.
- optic nerve