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Morphometric Analysis of Retinal Ganglion Cell Axons in Normal and Glaucomatous Brown Norway Rats Optic Nerves.

  • Goyal, Vidisha1
  • Read, A Thomas2
  • Brown, Dillon M2
  • Brawer, Luke2
  • Bateh, Kaitlyn2
  • Hannon, Bailey G3
  • Feola, Andrew J4, 5
  • Ethier, C Ross2, 3, 5
  • 1 School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA. , (Georgia)
  • 2 Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA. , (Georgia)
  • 3 George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA. , (Georgia)
  • 4 Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation, Atlanta VA Healthcare System, Decatur, GA, USA.
  • 5 Department of Ophthalmology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Published Article
Translational Vision Science & Technology
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)
Publication Date
Mar 01, 2023
DOI: 10.1167/tvst.12.3.8
PMID: 36917118


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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