We developed and characterized a mouse model of primary ocular blast injury. The device consists of: a pressurized air tank attached to a regulated paintball gun with a machined barrel; a chamber that protects the mouse from direct injury and recoil, while exposing the eye; and a secure platform that enables fine, controlled movement of the chamber in relation to the barrel. Expected pressures were calculated and the optimal pressure transducer, based on the predicted pressures, was positioned to measure output pressures at the location where the mouse eye would be placed. Mice were exposed to one of three blast pressures (23.6, 26.4, or 30.4 psi). Gross pathology, intraocular pressure, optical coherence tomography, and visual acuity were assessed 0, 3, 7, 14, and 28 days after exposure. Contralateral eyes and non-blast exposed mice were used as controls. We detected increased damage with increased pressures and a shift in the damage profile over time. Gross pathology included corneal edema, corneal abrasions, and optic nerve avulsion. Retinal damage was detected by optical coherence tomography and a deficit in visual acuity was detected by optokinetics. Our findings are comparable to those identified in Veterans of the recent wars with closed eye injuries as a result of blast exposure. In summary, this is a relatively simple system that creates injuries with features similar to those seen in patients with ocular blast trauma. This is an important new model for testing the short-term and long-term spectrum of closed globe blast injuries and potential therapeutic interventions.
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