The Novel Induction of Retinal Ganglion Cell Apoptosis in Porcine Organ Culture by NMDA — An Opportunity for the Replacement of Animals in Experiments

Sandra Kuehn, Jose Hurst, Adelina Jashari, Kathrin Ahrens, Teresa Tsai, Ilan M. Wunderlich, H. Burkhard Dick, Stephanie C. Joachim and Sven Schnichels

Some of the advantages of retina organ culture models include their efficient and easy handling and the ability to standardise relevant parameters. Additionally, when porcine eyes are obtained from the food industry, no animals are killed solely for research purposes. To induce retinal degeneration, a commonly used toxic substance, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), was applied to the cultures. To this end, organotypic cultures of porcine retinas were cultured and treated with different doses of NMDA (0 [control], 50, 100 and 200μM) on day 2 for 48 hours. On day 7, the retinas were cryo-conserved for histological, Western blot and quantitative rt-PCR (qrt-PCR) analyses. NMDA treatment was found to significantly increase retinal ganglion cell (RGC) apoptosis in all the treated groups, without a profound RGC loss. In addition, the intrinsic apoptotic pathway was activated in the 50μM and 100μM NMDA groups, whereas induced nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression was increased in the 200μM group. A slight microglial response was detectable, especially in the 100μM group. NMDA treatment induced apoptosis, oxidative stress and a slight microglia activation. All these effects mimic a chronic slow progressive disease that especially affects RGCs, such as glaucoma. A particular advantage of this model is that mediators that can interact in the very early stages of the onset of RGC death, can be easily detected and potential therapies can be tested.

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Testing the Biocompatibility of a Glutathione-containing Intra-ocular Irrigation Solution by Using an Isolated Perfused Bovine Retina Organ Culture Model — an Alternative to Animal Testing

Kai Januschowski, Ahmad Zhour, Albert Lee, Ramin Maddani, Sebastian Mueller, Martin S. Spitzer, Sven Schnichels, Maximilian Schultheiss, Deshka Doycheva, Karl-Ulrich Bartz-Schmidt and Peter Szurman

The effects of a glutathione-containing intra-ocular irrigation solution, BSS Plus®, on retinal function and on the survival of ganglion cells in whole-mount retinal explants were studied. Evidence is provided that the perfused ex vivo bovine retina can serve as an alternative to in vivo animal testing. Isolated bovine retinas were prepared and perfused with an oxygen-saturated standard irrigation solution, and an electroretinogram was recorded to assess retinal function. After stable b-waves were detected, the isolated retinas were perfused with BSS Plus for 45 minutes. To investigate the effects of BSS Plus on photoreceptor function, 1mM aspartate was added to the irrigation solution in order to obtain a-waves, and the ERG trace was monitored for 75 minutes. For histological analysis, isolated whole retinal mounts were stored for 24 hours at 4°C, in the dark. The percentages of cell death in the retinal ganglion cell layer and in the outer and inner nuclear layers were estimated by using an ethidium homodimer-1 stain and the TUNEL assay. General swelling of the retina was examined with high-resolution optical coherence tomography. During perfusion with BSS Plus, no significant changes in a-wave and b-wave amplitudes were recorded. Retinas stored for 24 hours in BSS Plus showed a statistically significant smaller percentage (52.6%, standard deviation [SD] = 16.1%) of cell death in the retinal ganglion cell layer compared to the control group (69.6%, SD = 3.9, p = 0.0031). BSS Plus did not seem to affect short-term retinal function, and had a beneficial effect on the survival of retinal ganglion cells. This method for analysing the isolated perfused retina represents a valuable alternative for testing substances for their retinal biocompatibility and toxicity.
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