Pathophysiology of human glaucomatous optic nerve damage: insights from rodent models of glaucoma

Exp Eye Res. 2011 Aug;93(2):156-64. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2010.08.005. Epub 2010 Aug 11.


Understanding mechanisms of glaucomatous optic nerve damage is essential for developing effective therapies to augment conventional pressure-lowering treatments. This requires that we understand not only the physical forces in play, but the cellular responses that translate these forces into axonal injury. The former are best understood by using primate models, in which a well-developed lamina cribrosa, peripapillary sclera and blood supply are most like that of the human optic nerve head. However, determining cellular responses to elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) and relating their contribution to axonal injury require cell biology techniques, using animals in numbers sufficient to perform reliable statistical analyses and draw meaningful conclusions. Over the years, models of chronically elevated IOP in laboratory rats and mice have proven increasingly useful for these purposes. While lacking a distinct collagenous lamina cribrosa, the rodent optic nerve head (ONH) possesses a cellular arrangement of astrocytes, or glial lamina, that ultrastructurally closely resembles that of the primate. Using these tools, major insights have been gained into ONH and the retinal cellular responses to elevated IOP that, in time, can be applied to the primate model and, ultimately, human glaucoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Eye / blood supply
  • Glaucoma / physiopathology*
  • Intraocular Pressure / physiology
  • Macaca
  • Optic Disk / pathology
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Rats