Background: Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are the nervous retinal elements which
connect the visual receptors to the brain forming the nervous visual system. Functional and/or morphological
involvement of RGCs occurs in several ocular and neurological disorders and therefore
these cells are targeted in neuroprotective strategies.
Cytidine 5-diphosphocholine or Citicoline is an endogenous compound that acts in the biosynthesis
of phospholipids of cell membranes and increases neurotransmitters’ levels in the Central Nervous
System. Experimental studies suggested the neuromodulator effect and the protective role of
Citicoline on RGCs. This review aims to present evidence of the effects of Citicoline in experimental
models of RGCs degeneration and in human neurodegenerative disorders involving RGCs.
Methods: All published papers containing experimental or clinical studies about the effects of
Citicoline on RGCs morphology and function were reviewed.
Results: In rodent retinal cultures and animal models, Citicoline induces antiapoptotic effects,
increases the dopamine retinal level, and counteracts retinal nerve fibers layer thinning. Human studies
in neurodegenerative visual pathologies such as glaucoma or non-arteritic ischemic neuropathy
showed a reduction of the RGCs impairment after Citicoline administration. By reducing the RGCs'
dysfunction, a better neural conduction along the post-retinal visual pathways with an improvement
of the visual field defects was observed.
Conclusion: Citicoline, with a solid history of experimental and clinical studies, could be considered
a very promising molecule for neuroprotective strategies in those pathologies (i.e. Glaucoma)
in which morpho-functional changes of RGCc occurs.