The rabbit eye presents a valuable model to study the effects of vascular occlusion on the function and structure of myelinated nerve fibers. The rabbit eye has a band of myelinated nerve fibers within the intraocular compartment that are supplied by a narrow band of retinal vasculature. These vessels were transiently occluded (∼8 hours) using laser photocoagulation and the transmission of electrical signals along the nerve fibers was assessed by recording the visual evoked response (VER). Morphological damage was assessed by histological techniques. The ischemic insult produced no permanent change in retinal function as assessed by electroretinography, but the VER was suppressed, indicating failure of nerve fiber transmission. Histologically, the visible damage to the region supported by the retinal vasculature worsened following reperfusion, showing evidence of demyelination and necrosis followed by macrophage responses and gliosis. This rabbit model of ischemia/reperfusion of the retinal vasculature offers a rare opportunity to reliably study the response of myelinated nerve fibers to ischemia/reperfusion insults and has demonstrated the susceptibility of myelinated nerve fibers to such insults.
Keywords: Myelinated nerve fiber, optic nerve, ischemia, arterial occlusion, rabbits
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