Traumatic optic neuropathy (TON) is a devastating cause of permanent visual loss following blunt injury to the head. Animal models for TON exist, but most fail to recapitulate the clinical scenario of closed head indirect trauma to the nerve and subsequent neurodegeneration. Thus, we developed a clinically-relevant animal model for TON using a novel ultrasonic pulse injury modality (sonication-induced TON; SI-TON). To trigger TON, a microtip probe sonifier was placed on the supraorbital ridge directly above the entrance of the optic nerve into the bony canal. An ultrasonic pulse was then delivered to the optic nerve. After injury, the number of RGCs in the retina as well as visual function measured by PERG steadily decreased over a two-week period. In the optic nerve, pro-inflammatory markers were upregulated within 6 hours following injury. Immunohistochemistry showed activation of microglia and infiltration of CD45-positive leukocytes in the optic nerve and initiation of a gliotic response. The SI-TON model is capable of delivering a non-contact concussive injury to the optic nerve and induce TON in mice. Thus, our data indicate that the SI-TON model reliably recapitulates the pathophysiology and progressive neurodegeneration seen in the human manifestation.
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