Assessing retinal ganglion cell death and neuroprotective agents using real time imaging

Azusa Ito, Satoru Tsuda, Hiroshi Kunikata, Asano Toshifumi, Kota Sato, Toru Nakazawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The evaluation of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death is a key part of retinal disease care. Previously, we used a Sytox Orange (SO)-based real-time imaging method to assess the RGCs in mice that underwent optic nerve crush. Here, we used N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) injury in rats to confirm our model and assess the effect of neuroprotective agents on RGCs. The rats received NMDA injury and the intravitreal injection of SO, a cell-impermeant dyeing compound that targets nucleic acid. After ten minutes, non-invasive confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy visualized damaged or dying cells. Finally, the retinas were flat-mounted for histological confirmation of RGC death, with retrograde Fluorogold labeling and Alexa Fluor 488 Annexin V-conjugate (Annexin V) staining. This also revealed the time course of retinal cell death and the neuroprotective effect of SNJ-1945. Real-time imaging showed that SO-positive cells significantly increased starting 2 h after NMDA injection and reached an approximate plateau at 3 h. SO-positive cells were positive for Fluorogold and Annexin V in the isolated retinas. Moreover, the number of SO-positive retinal cells was significantly lower after treatment with SNJ-1945, compared to carboxymethyl cellulose. These results were confirmed in the isolated retinas. Thus, real-time imaging with SO allows the quick quantification of NMDA-induced RGC damage and death, and evaluation of neuroprotective agents. This technique may aid research into the development of new neuroprotective therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-72
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul 1


  • Neuroprotection
  • Real-time imaging
  • Retinal ganglion cell
  • SYTOX orange


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