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1.  Animal Models of Diabetic Retinopathy: Summary and Comparison 
Journal of Diabetes Research  2013;2013:106594.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a microvascular complication associated with chronic exposure to hyperglycemia and is a major cause of blindness worldwide. Although clinical assessment and retinal autopsy of diabetic patients provide information on the features and progression of DR, its underlying pathophysiological mechanism cannot be deduced. In order to have a better understanding of the development of DR at the molecular and cellular levels, a variety of animal models have been developed. They include pharmacological induction of hyperglycemia and spontaneous diabetic rodents as well as models of angiogenesis without diabetes (to compensate for the absence of proliferative DR symptoms). In this review, we summarize the existing protocols to induce diabetes using STZ. We also describe and compare the pathological presentations, in both morphological and functional aspects, of the currently available DR animal models. The advantages and disadvantages of using different animals, ranging from zebrafish, rodents to other higher-order mammals, are also discussed. Until now, there is no single model that displays all the clinical features of DR as seen in human. Yet, with the understanding of the pathological findings in these animal models, researchers can select the most suitable models for mechanistic studies or drug screening.
PMCID: PMC3826427  PMID: 24286086
2.  Hypoxia-Induced Oxidative Stress in Ischemic Retinopathy 
Oxidative stress plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of retinal ischemia/hypoxia, a complication of ocular diseases such as diabetic retinopathy (DR) and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Oxidative stress refers to the imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the ability to scavenge these ROS by endogenous antioxidative systems. Free radicals and ROS are implicated in the irreversible damage to cell membrane, DNA, and other cellular structures by oxidizing lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Anti-oxidants that can inhibit the oxidative processes can protect retinal cells from ischemic/hypoxic insults. In particular, treatment using anti-oxidants such as vitamin E and lutein, inhibition of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase (NADPH oxidase) or related signaling pathways, and administration of catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) are possible therapeutic regimens for DR, ROP, and other retinal ischemic diseases. The role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of DR and ROP as well as the underlying mechanisms involved in the hypoxia/ischemia-induced oxidative damage is discussed. The information provided will be beneficial in understanding the underlying mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of the diseases as well as in developing effective therapeutic interventions to treat oxidative stress-induced damages.
PMCID: PMC3483772  PMID: 23125893
3.  Neuroprotective effects of lutein in a rat model of retinal detachment 
Retinal detachment (RD) is a leading cause of blindness, and although final surgical re-attachment rate has greatly improved, visual outcome in many macula-off detachments is disappointing, mainly because of photoreceptor cell death. We previously showed that lutein is anti-apoptotic in rodent models of ischemia/reperfusion injury. The objective of this study is to investigate lutein as a possible pharmacological adjunct to surgery.
Subretinal injections of 1.4 % sodium hyaluronate were used to induce RD in Sprague–Dawley rats until their retinae were approximately 70 % detached. Daily injections of corn oil (control group) or 0.5 mg/kg lutein in corn oil (treatment group) were given intraperitoneally starting 4 h after RD induction. Animals were euthanized 3 days and 30 days after RD and their retinae were analyzed for photoreceptor apoptosis and cell survival at the outer nuclear layer (ONL) using TUNEL staining and cell counting on retinal sections. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and rhodopsin (RHO) expression were evaluated with immunohistochemistry. Western blotting was done with antibodies against cleaved caspase-3, cleaved caspase-8 and cleaved caspase-9 to delineate lutein’s mechanism of action in the apoptotic cascade. To seek a possible therapeutic time window, the same set of experiments was repeated with treatment commencing 36 h after RD.
When lutein was given 4 h after RD, there were significantly fewer TUNEL-positive cells in ONL 3 days after RD when compared with the vehicle group. Cell counting showed that there were significantly more nuclei in ONL in lutein-treated retinae by day 30. Treatment groups also showed significantly reduced GFAP immunoreactivity and preserved RHO expression. At day 3 after RD, Western blotting showed reduced expression of cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved caspase-8 in the treatment group. No difference was found for cleaved caspase-9. When lutein was given 36 h after RD similar results were observed.
Our results suggest that lutein is a potent neuroprotective agent that can salvage photoreceptors in rats with RD, with a therapeutic window of at least 36 h. The use of lutein in patients with RD may serve as an adjunct to surgery to improve visual outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3536954  PMID: 22899456
Apoptosis; Xanthophyll; Healon; Retinal neuron; Retinal detachment; Lutein; Neuroprotection
4.  Lycium barbarum Extracts Protect the Brain from Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption and Cerebral Edema in Experimental Stroke 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33596.
Background and Purpose
Ischemic stroke is a destructive cerebrovascular disease and a leading cause of death. Yet, no ideal neuroprotective agents are available, leaving prevention an attractive alternative. The extracts from the fruits of Lycium barbarum (LBP), a Chinese anti-aging medicine and food supplement, showed neuroprotective function in the retina when given prophylactically. We aim to evaluate the protective effects of LBP pre-treatment in an experimental stroke model.
C57BL/6N male mice were first fed with either vehicle (PBS) or LBP (1 or 10 mg/kg) daily for 7 days. Mice were then subjected to 2-hour transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) by the intraluminal method followed by 22-hour reperfusion upon filament removal. Mice were evaluated for neurological deficits just before sacrifice. Brains were harvested for infarct size estimation, water content measurement, immunohistochemical analysis, and Western blot experiments. Evans blue (EB) extravasation was determined to assess blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption after MCAO.
LBP pre-treatment significantly improved neurological deficits as well as decreased infarct size, hemispheric swelling, and water content. Fewer apoptotic cells were identified in LBP-treated brains by TUNEL assay. Reduced EB extravasation, fewer IgG-leaky vessels, and up-regulation of occludin expression were also observed in LBP-treated brains. Moreover, immunoreactivity for aquaporin-4 and glial fibrillary acidic protein were significantly decreased in LBP-treated brains.
Seven-day oral LBP pre-treatment effectively improved neurological deficits, decreased infarct size and cerebral edema as well as protected the brain from BBB disruption, aquaporin-4 up-regulation, and glial activation. The present study suggests that LBP may be used as a prophylactic neuroprotectant in patients at high risk for ischemic stroke.
PMCID: PMC3306421  PMID: 22438957
5.  Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides Reduce Neuronal Damage, Blood-Retinal Barrier Disruption and Oxidative Stress in Retinal Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16380.
Neuronal cell death, glial cell activation, retinal swelling and oxidative injury are complications in retinal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injuries. Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP), extracts from the wolfberries, are good for “eye health” according to Chinese medicine. The aim of our present study is to explore the use of LBP in retinal I/R injury. Retinal I/R injury was induced by surgical occlusion of the internal carotid artery. Prior to induction of ischemia, mice were treated orally with either vehicle (PBS) or LBP (1 mg/kg) once a day for 1 week. Paraffin-embedded retinal sections were prepared. Viable cells were counted; apoptosis was assessed using TUNEL assay. Expression levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), aquaporin-4 (AQP4), poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR) and nitrotyrosine (NT) were investigated by immunohistochemistry. The integrity of blood-retinal barrier (BRB) was examined by IgG extravasations. Apoptosis and decreased viable cell count were found in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) and the inner nuclear layer (INL) of the vehicle-treated I/R retina. Additionally, increased retinal thickness, GFAP activation, AQP4 up-regulation, IgG extravasations and PAR expression levels were observed in the vehicle-treated I/R retina. Many of these changes were diminished or abolished in the LBP-treated I/R retina. Pre-treatment with LBP for 1 week effectively protected the retina from neuronal death, apoptosis, glial cell activation, aquaporin water channel up-regulation, disruption of BRB and oxidative stress. The present study suggests that LBP may have a neuroprotective role to play in ocular diseases for which I/R is a feature.
PMCID: PMC3027646  PMID: 21298100
6.  Lutein Protects RGC-5 Cells Against Hypoxia and Oxidative Stress 
Retinal ischemia and oxidative stress lead to neuronal death in many ocular pathologies. Recently, we found that lutein, an oxy-carotenoid, protected the inner retina from ischemia/reperfusion injury. However, it is uncertain whether lutein directly protects retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Here, an in vitro model of hypoxia and oxidative stress was used to further investigate the neuroprotective role of lutein in RGCs. Cobalt chloride (CoCl2) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) were added to a transformed RGC cell line, RGC-5, to induce chemical hypoxia and oxidative stress, respectively. Either lutein or vehicle was added to cultured cells. A higher cell count was observed in the lutein-treated cells compared with the vehicle-treated cells. Our data from this in vitro model revealed that lutein might protect RGC-5 cells from damage when exposed to either CoCl2-induced chemical hypoxia or H2O2-induced oxidative stress. These results suggest that lutein may play a role as a neuroprotectant.
PMCID: PMC2885097  PMID: 20559505
antioxidants; carotenoids; cobalt chloride; hydrogen peroxide; ischemia; RGC-5
7.  Expressional Changes in Cerebrovascular Receptors after Experimental Transient Forebrain Ischemia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41852.
Global ischemic stroke is one of the most prominent consequences of cardiac arrest, since the diminished blood flow to the brain results in cell damage and sometimes permanently impaired neurological function. The post-arrest period is often characterised by cerebral hypoperfusion due to subacute hemodynamic disturbances, the pathophysiology of which are poorly understood. In two other types of stroke, focal ischemic stroke and subarachnoid hemorrhage, it has earlier been demonstrated that the expression of certain vasoconstrictor receptors is increased in cerebral arteries several days after the insult, a phenomenon that leads to increased contraction of cerebral arteries, reduced perfusion of the affected area and worsened ischemic damage. Based on these findings, the aim of the present study was to investigate if transient global cerebral ischemia is associated with upregulation of vasoconstrictive endothelin and 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors in cerebral arteries. Experimental transient forebrain ischemia of varying durations was induced in male wistar rats, followed by reperfusion for 48 hours. Neurological function was assessed daily by three different tests and cerebrovascular expression and contractile function of endothelin and 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors were evaluated by wire myography, immunohistochemistry and western blotting.
Transient forebrain ischemia induced neurological deficits as well as functional upregulation of vasoconstrictive ETB and 5-HT1B receptors in cerebral arteries supplying mid- and forebrain regions. No receptor upregulation was seen in arteries supplying the hindbrain. Immunohistochemical stainings and western blotting demonstrated expressional upregulation of these receptor subtypes in the mid- and forebrain arteries and confirmed that the receptors were located in the smooth muscle layer of the cerebral arteries.
This study reveals a new pathophysiological aspect of global ischemic stroke, namely expressional upregulation of vasoconstrictor receptors in cerebral arteries two days after the insult, which might contribute to cerebral hypoperfusion and delayed neuronal damage after cardiac arrest.
PMCID: PMC3407123  PMID: 22848635
8.  Conjunctiva-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (CALT) Reactions to Antiglaucoma Prostaglandins with or without BAK-Preservative in Rabbit Acute Toxicity Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33913.
Conjunctiva-associated lymphoid tissue (CALT) is closely associated with ocular surface immunity. This study investigated the effects of antiglaucoma prostaglandin analogs with or without benzalkonium chloride (BAK) preservative on organized CALT using an acute toxic model. A total of 48 albino rabbits were used and seven groups of treatments were constituted. Solutions (50 µl) of PBS, 0.02%BAK, 0.02%BAK+latanoprost, 0.015%BAK+travoprost, 0.005%BAK+bimatoprost, BAK-freetravoprost preserved with the SofZia® system or BAK-freetafluprost were instilled 15 times at 5-min intervals in both eyes. CALT changes were analyzed using in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM), immunohistology in cryosections for detecting MUC-5AC+ mucocytes and CD45+ hematopoietic cells. Antiglaucoma eye drops stimulated inflammatory cell infiltration in the CALT, and seemed to be primarily related to the concentration of their BAK content. The CALT reaction after instillation of BAK-containing eye drops was characterized by inflammatory cell infiltration in the dome and intrafollicular layers and by cell circulation inside the lymph vessels. CD45 was strongly expressed in the CALT after instillation of all BAK-containing solutions at 4 h and decreased at 24 h. The number of MUC-5AC+ mucocytes around the CALT structure decreased dramatically after instillation of BAK-containing solutions. This study showed for the first time the in vivo aspect of rabbit CALT after toxic stimuli, confirming the concentration-dependent toxic effects of BAK. IVCM-CALT analysis could be a pertinent tool in the future for understanding the immunotoxicologic challenges in the ocular surface and would provide useful criteria for evaluating newly developed eye drops.
PMCID: PMC3307783  PMID: 22442734
9.  Retinal Expression of Wnt-Pathway Mediated Genes in Low-Density Lipoprotein Receptor-Related Protein 5 (Lrp5) Knockout Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30203.
Mutations in low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5 (Lrp5) impair retinal angiogenesis in patients with familial exudative vitreoretinopathy (FEVR), a rare type of blinding vascular eye disease. The defective retinal vasculature phenotype in human FEVR patients is recapitulated in Lrp5 knockout (Lrp5−/−) mouse with delayed and incomplete development of retinal vessels. In this study we examined gene expression changes in the developing Lrp5−/− mouse retina to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms that underlie the pathology of FEVR in humans. Gene expression levels were assessed with an Illumina microarray on total RNA from Lrp5−/− and WT retinas isolated on postnatal day (P) 8. Regulated genes were confirmed using RT-qPCR analysis. Consistent with a role in vascular development, we identified expression changes in genes involved in cell-cell adhesion, blood vessel morphogenesis and membrane transport in Lrp5−/− retina compared to WT retina. In particular, tight junction protein claudin5 and amino acid transporter slc38a5 are both highly down-regulated in Lrp5−/− retina. Similarly, several Wnt ligands including Wnt7b show decreased expression levels. Plasmalemma vesicle associated protein (plvap), an endothelial permeability marker, in contrast, is up-regulated consistent with increased permeability in Lrp5−/− retinas. Together these data suggest that Lrp5 regulates multiple groups of genes that influence retinal angiogenesis and may contribute to the pathogenesis of FEVR.
PMCID: PMC3260226  PMID: 22272305
10.  Corneal Alterations during Combined Therapy with Cyclodextrin/Allopregnanolone and Miglustat in a Knock-Out Mouse Model of NPC1 Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28418.
Niemann Pick disease type C1 is a neurodegenerative disease caused by mutations in the NPC1 gene, which result in accumulation of unesterified cholesterol and glycosphingolipids in the endosomal-lysosomal system as well as limiting membranes. We have previously shown the corneal involvement in NPC1 pathology in form of intracellular inclusions in epithelial cells and keratocytes. The purpose of the present study was to clarify if these inclusions regress during combined substrate reduction- and by-product therapy (SRT and BPT).
Methodology/Principal Findings
Starting at postnatal day 7 (P7) and thereafter, NPC1 knock-out mice (NPC1−/−) and wild type controls (NPC1+/+) were injected with cyclodextrin/allopregnanolone weekly. Additionally, a daily miglustat injection started at P10 until P23. Starting at P23 the mice were fed powdered chow with daily addition of miglustat. The sham group was injected with 0.9% NaCl at P7, thereafter daily starting at P10 until P23, and fed powdered chow starting at P23. For corneal examination, in vivo confocal laser-scanning microscopy (CLSM) was performed one day before experiment was terminated. Excised corneas were harvested for lipid analysis (HPLC/MS) and electron microscopy.
In vivo CLSM demonstrated a regression of hyperreflective inclusions in all treated NPC1−/−mice. The findings varied between individual mice, demonstrating a regression, ranging from complete absence to pronounced depositions. The reflectivity of inclusions, however, was significantly lower when compared to untreated and sham-injected NPC1−/− mice. These confocal findings were confirmed by lipid analysis and electron microscopy. Another important CLSM finding revealed a distinct increase of mature dendritic cell number in corneas of all treated mice (NPC1−/− and NPC1+/+), including sham-treated ones.
The combined substrate reduction- and by-product therapy revealed beneficial effects on the cornea. In vivo CLSM is a non-invasive tool to monitor disease progression and treatment effects in NPC1 disorder.
PMCID: PMC3232193  PMID: 22163015
11.  Does Reduced IGF-1R Signaling in Igf1r+/− Mice Alter Aging? 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26891.
Mutations in insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway have been shown to lead to increased longevity in various invertebrate models. Therefore, the effect of the haplo- insufficiency of the IGF-1 receptor (Igf1r+/−) on longevity/aging was evaluated in C57Bl/6 mice using rigorous criteria where lifespan and end-of-life pathology were measured under optimal husbandry conditions using large sample sizes. Igf1r+/− mice exhibited reductions in IGF-1 receptor levels and the activation of Akt by IGF-1, with no compensatory increases in serum IGF-1 or tissue IGF-1 mRNA levels, indicating that the Igf1r+/− mice show reduced IGF-1 signaling. Aged male, but not female Igf1r+/− mice were glucose intolerant, and both genders developed insulin resistance as they aged. Female, but not male Igf1r+/− mice survived longer than wild type mice after lethal paraquat and diquat exposure, and female Igf1r+/− mice also exhibited less diquat-induced liver damage. However, no significant difference between the lifespans of the male Igf1r+/− and wild type mice was observed; and the mean lifespan of the Igf1r+/− females was increased only slightly (less than 5%) compared to wild type mice. A comprehensive pathological analysis showed no significant difference in end-of-life pathological lesions between the Igf1r+/− and wild type mice. These data show that the Igf1r+/− mouse is not a model of increased longevity and delayed aging as predicted by invertebrate models with mutations in the insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3223158  PMID: 22132081
12.  Selective Over-Expression of Endothelin-1 in Endothelial Cells Exacerbates Inner Retinal Edema and Neuronal Death in Ischemic Retina 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26184.
The level of endothelin-1 (ET-1), a potent vasoconstrictor, was associated with retinopathy under ischemia. The effects of endothelial endothelin-1 (ET-1) over-expression in a transgenic mouse model using Tie-1 promoter (TET-1 mice) on pathophysiological changes of retinal ischemia were investigated by intraluminal insertion of a microfilament up to middle cerebral artery (MCA) to transiently block the ophthalmic artery. Two-hour occlusion and twenty-two-hour reperfusion were performed in homozygous (Hm) TET-1 mice and their non-transgenic (NTg) littermates. Presence of pyknotic nuclei in ganglion cell layer (GCL) was investigated in paraffin sections of ipsilateral (ischemic) and contralateral (non-ischemic) retinae, followed by measurement of the thickness of inner retinal layer. Moreover, immunocytochemistry of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), glutamine synthetase (GS) and aquaporin-4 (AQP4) peptides on retinal sections were performed to study glial cell reactivity, glutamate metabolism and water accumulation, respectively after retinal ischemia. Similar morphology was observed in the contralateral retinae of NTg and Hm TET-1 mice, whereas ipsilateral retina of NTg mice showed slight structural and cellular changes compared with the corresponding contralateral retina. Ipsilateral retinae of Hm TET-1 mice showed more significant changes when compared with ipsilateral retina of NTg mice, including more prominent cell death in GCL characterized by the presence of pyknotic nuclei, elevated GS immunoreactivity in Müller cell bodies and processes, increased AQP-4 immunoreactivity in Müller cell processes, and increased inner retinal thickness. Thus, over-expression of endothelial ET-1 in TET-1 mice may contribute to increased glutamate-induced neurotoxicity on neuronal cells and water accumulation in inner retina leading to edema.
PMCID: PMC3203861  PMID: 22053184
13.  Differential Roles of Hyperglycemia and Hypoinsulinemia in Diabetes Induced Retinal Cell Death: Evidence for Retinal Insulin Resistance 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26498.
Diabetes pathology derives from the combination of hyperglycemia and hypoinsulinemia or insulin resistance leading to diabetic complications including diabetic neuropathy, nephropathy and retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is characterized by numerous retinal defects affecting the vasculature and the neuro-retina, but the relative contributions of the loss of retinal insulin signaling and hyperglycemia have never been directly compared. In this study we tested the hypothesis that increased retinal insulin signaling and glycemic normalization would exert differential effects on retinal cell survival and retinal physiology during diabetes. We have demonstrated in this study that both subconjunctival insulin administration and systemic glycemic reduction using the sodium-glucose linked transporter inhibitor phloridzin affected the regulation of retinal cell survival in diabetic rats. Both treatments partially restored the retinal insulin signaling without increasing plasma insulin levels. Retinal transcriptomic and histological analysis also clearly demonstrated that local administration of insulin and systemic glycemia normalization use different pathways to counteract the effects of diabetes on the retina. While local insulin primarily affected inflammation-associated pathways, systemic glycemic control affected pathways involved in the regulation of cell signaling and metabolism. These results suggest that hyperglycemia induces resistance to growth factor action in the retina and clearly demonstrate that both restoration of glycemic control and retinal insulin signaling can act through different pathways to both normalize diabetes-induced retinal abnormality and prevent vision loss.
PMCID: PMC3202547  PMID: 22046295
14.  Ischemic Tolerance Protects the Rat Retina from Glaucomatous Damage 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23763.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of acquired blindness which may involve an ischemic-like insult to retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve head. We investigated the effect of a weekly application of brief ischemia pulses (ischemic conditioning) on the rat retinal damage induced by experimental glaucoma. Glaucoma was induced by weekly injections of chondroitin sulfate (CS) in the rat eye anterior chamber. Retinal ischemia was induced by increasing intraocular pressure to 120 mmHg for 5 min; this maneuver started after 6 weekly injections of vehicle or CS and was weekly repeated in one eye, while the contralateral eye was submitted to a sham procedure. Glaucoma was evaluated in terms of: i) intraocular pressure (IOP), ii) retinal function (electroretinogram (ERG)), iii) visual pathway function (visual evoked potentials, (VEPs)) iv) histology of the retina and optic nerve head. Retinal thiobarbituric acid substances levels were assessed as an index of lipid peroxidation. Ischemic conditioning significantly preserved ERG, VEPs, as well as retinal and optic nerve head structure from glaucomatous damage, without changes in IOP. Moreover, ischemia pulses abrogated the increase in lipid peroxidation induced by experimental glaucoma. These results indicate that induction of ischemic tolerance could constitute a fertile avenue for the development of new therapeutic strategies in glaucoma treatment.
PMCID: PMC3161053  PMID: 21887313
15.  Preparation of Pre-Confluent Retinal Cells Increases Graft Viability In Vitro and In Vivo: A Mouse Model 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21365.
Graft failure remains an obstacle to experimental subretinal cell transplantation. A key step is preparing a viable graft, as high levels of necrosis and apoptosis increase the risk of graft failure. Retinal grafts are commonly harvested from cell cultures. We termed the graft preparation procedure “transplant conditions” (TC). We hypothesized that culture conditions influenced graft viability, and investigated whether viability decreased following TC using a mouse retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell line, DH01.
Cell viability was assessed by trypan blue exclusion. Levels of apoptosis and necrosis in vitro were determined by flow cytometry for annexin V and propidium iodide and Western blot analysis for the pro- and cleaved forms of caspases 3 and 7. Graft viability in vivo was established by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) and cleaved caspase 3 immunolabeling of subretinal allografts.
Pre-confluent cultures had significantly less nonviable cells than post-confluent cultures (6.6%±0.8% vs. 13.1%±0.9%, p<0.01). Cell viability in either group was not altered significantly following TC. Caspases 3 and 7 were not altered by levels of confluence or following TC. Pre-confluent cultures had low levels of apoptosis/necrosis (5.6%±1.1%) that did not increase following TC (4.8%±0.5%). However, culturing beyond confluence led to progressively increasing levels of apoptosis and necrosis (up to 16.5%±0.9%). Allografts prepared from post-confluent cultures had significantly more TUNEL-positive cells 3 hours post-operatively than grafts of pre-confluent cells (12.7%±3.1% vs. 4.5%±1.4%, p<0.001). Subretinal grafts of post-confluent cells also had significantly higher rates of cleaved caspase 3 than pre-confluent grafts (20.2%±4.3% vs. 7.8%±1.8%, p<0.001).
Pre-confluent cells should be used to maximize graft cell viability.
PMCID: PMC3126823  PMID: 21738643
16.  Bicistronic Lentiviruses Containing a Viral 2A Cleavage Sequence Reliably Co-Express Two Proteins and Restore Vision to an Animal Model of LCA1 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20553.
The disease processes underlying inherited retinal disease are complex and are not completely understood. Many of the corrective gene therapies designed to treat diseases linked to mutations in genes specifically expressed in photoreceptor cells restore function to these cells but fail to stop progression of the disease. There is growing consensus that effective treatments for these diseases will require delivery of multiple therapeutic proteins that will be selected to treat specific aspects of the disease process. The purpose of this study was to design a lentiviral transgene that reliably expresses all of the proteins it encodes and does so in a consistent manner among infected cells. We show, using both in vitro and in vivo analyses, that bicistronic lentiviral transgenes encoding two fluorescent proteins fused to a viral 2A-like cleavage peptide meet these expression criteria. To determine if this transgene design is suitable for therapeutic applications, we replaced one of the fluorescent protein genes with the gene encoding guanylate cyclase -1 (GC1) and delivered lentivirus carrying this transgene to the retinas of the GUCY1*B avian model of Leber congenital amaurosis – 1 (LCA1). GUCY1*B chickens carry a null mutation in the GC1 gene that disrupts photoreceptor function and causes blindness at hatching, a phenotype that closely matches that observed in humans with LCA1. We found that treatment of these animals with the 2A lentivector encoding GC1 restored vision to these animals as evidenced by the presence of optokinetic reflexes. We conclude that 2A-like peptides, with proper optimization, can be successfully incorporated into therapeutic vectors designed to deliver multiple proteins to neural retinal. These results highlight the potential of this vector design to serve as a platform for the development of combination therapies designed to enhance or prolong the benefits of corrective gene therapies.
PMCID: PMC3103589  PMID: 21647387
17.  Poor Regenerative Outcome after Skeletal Muscle Necrosis Induced by Bothrops asper Venom: Alterations in Microvasculature and Nerves 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19834.
Viperid snakebite envenoming is characterized by prominent local tissue damage, including muscle necrosis. A frequent outcome of such local pathology is deficient skeletal muscle regeneration, which causes muscle dysfunction, muscle loss and fibrosis, thus provoking permanent sequelae that greatly affect the quality of life of patients. The causes of such poor regenerative outcome of skeletal muscle after viperid snakebites are not fully understood.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A murine model of muscle necrosis and regeneration was adapted to study the effects of the venom and isolated toxins of Bothrops asper, the medically most important snake in Central America. Gastrocnemius muscle was injected with either B. asper venom, a myotoxic phospholipase A2 (Mtx), a hemorrhagic metalloproteinase (SVMP), or saline solution. At various time intervals, during one month, tissue samples were collected and analyzed by histology, and by immunocytochemical and immunohistochemical techniques aimed at detecting muscle fibers, collagen, endothelial cells, myoblasts, myotubes, macrophages, TUNEL-positive nuclei, and axons. A successful regenerative response was observed in muscle injected with Mtx, which induces myonecrosis but does not affect the microvasculature. In contrast, poor regeneration, with fibrosis and atrophic fibers, occurred when muscle was injected with venom or SVMP, both of which provoke necrosis, microvascular damage leading to hemorrhage, and poor axonal regeneration.
The deficient skeletal muscle regeneration after injection of B. asper venom is likely to depend on the widespread damage to the microvasculature, which affects the removal of necrotic debris by phagocytes, and the provision of nutrients and oxygen required for regeneration. In addition, deficient axonal regeneration is likely to contribute to the poor regenerative outcome in this model.
PMCID: PMC3101212  PMID: 21629691
18.  Age-Related Retinopathy in NRF2-Deficient Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19456.
Cumulative oxidative damage is implicated in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) is a transcription factor that plays key roles in retinal antioxidant and detoxification responses. The purposes of this study were to determine whether NRF2-deficient mice would develop AMD-like retinal pathology with aging and to explore the underlying mechanisms.
Methods and Findings
Eyes of both wild type and Nrf2−/− mice were examined in vivo by fundus photography and electroretinography (ERG). Structural changes of the outer retina in aged animals were examined by light and electron microscopy, and immunofluorescence labeling. Our results showed that Nrf2−/− mice developed age-dependent degenerative pathology in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Drusen-like deposits, accumulation of lipofuscin, spontaneous choroidal neovascularization (CNV) and sub-RPE deposition of inflammatory proteins were present in Nrf2−/− mice after 12 months. Accumulation of autophagy-related vacuoles and multivesicular bodies was identified by electron microcopy both within the RPE and in Bruch's membrane of aged Nrf2−/− mice.
Our data suggest that disruption of Nfe2l2 gene increased the vulnerability of outer retina to age-related degeneration. NRF2-deficient mice developed ocular pathology similar to cardinal features of human AMD and deregulated autophagy is likely a mechanistic link between oxidative injury and inflammation. The Nrf2−/− mice can provide a novel model for mechanistic and translational research on AMD.
PMCID: PMC3084871  PMID: 21559389

Results 1-18 (18)