Purpose: To investigate the in vivo effects of trophic factors on the axonal regeneration of axotomized retinal ganglion cells in adult hamsters.
Methods: The left optic nerve was transected intracranially or intraorbitally, and a peripheral nerve graft was apposed or sutured to the axotomized optic nerve to enhance regeneration. Trophic factors were applied intravitreally every 5 days. Animals were allowed to survive for 3 or 4 weeks. Regenerating retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) were labeled by applying the dye Fluoro-Gold to the distal end of the peripheral nerve graft 3 days before the animals were killed.
Results: Intravitreal application of ciliary neurotrophic factor substantially enhanced the regeneration of damaged axons into a sciatic nerve graft in both experimental conditions (intracranial and intraorbital optic nerve transections) but did not increase the survival of distally axotomized RGCs. Basic fibroblast growth factor and neurotrophins such as nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neurotrophin-3, and neurotrophin-4/5 failed to enhance axonal regeneration of distally axotomized RGCs.
Conclusions: Neurons of the adult central nervous system can regenerate in response to trophic supply after injury, and ciliary neurotrophic factor is at least one of the trophic factors that can promote axonal regeneration of axotomized RGCs.