August 19, 2014

Keeping an eye on blast trauma

Understanding the cellular and molecular responses of the eye to blast injury could guide new treatment development.

Eye trauma is the fourth leading cause of blindness globally and is a particular problem in veterans who have experienced blast-induced traumatic brain injury. Tonia Rex, Ph.D., and colleagues are exploring the cellular and molecular responses of the eye to blast injury.

The investigators reported in the August issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science that oxidative stress, neuroinflammation and cell death increase over time post-blast, suggesting an ongoing neurodegenerative process. They found that initial outer retinal changes resolved or remained focal, but that inner retinal changes spread from focal regions to the entire retina over time.

The model demonstrates that eye blast trauma causes molecular changes and a decrease in visual acuity within the first month post-blast, despite a lack of obvious eye injury. The response matches the delayed visual deficit in some blast-exposed veterans, suggesting that the mouse model may be valuable for testing new therapeutic options.

This research was supported by grants from the Department of Defense, Research to Prevent Blindness and the National Eye Institute (EY022349, EY008126).

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