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Evidence of constriction of optic nerve axons at the lamina cribrosa in the normotensive eye in humans and other mammals


, : Evidence of constriction of optic nerve axons at the lamina cribrosa in the normotensive eye in humans and other mammals. Ophthalmic Research 27(5): 296-309

The ultrastructure of optic nerve axons was examined in several mammals (human, cat, rat, sheep, ox, pig, guinea pig, rabbit). Human material was obtained from normotensive, glaucoma-free eyes and from eyes with a history of glaucoma and raised intra-ocular pressure (IOP). We describe accumulations of organelles (principally mitochondria) in optic nerve axons where they traverse the lamina cribrosa. Accumulations were most prominent in unmyelinated lengths of axons close to lamellae of the lamina cribrosa. Comparable accumulations were not apparent in axons in the retina or optic nerve, suggesting that axoplasmic flow is constricted at the lamina cribrosa. Accumulations were observed both centrally and peripherally to the lamellae, suggesting that flow is constricted in both ortho- and anterograde directions. Accumulations of organelles were more marked in unmyelinated axons than in adjacent, myelinated axons. In the rabbit, in which most axons are myelinated as they traverse the optic nerve head, organelle accumulations were observed only in a sparse population of unmyelinated axons. In human eyes with a history of raised IOP and glaucoma, the accumulations were abnormally large and frequent and in many axons showed dense-body and fibrillar changes not seen in normotensive eyes. It is suggested that chronic, partial constriction of axoplasmic flow is present at the lamina cribrosa of normotensive eyes in a wide range of mammals, including humans, that the constriction results from the pressure gradient across the lamina cribrosa and that the constriction may be a factor in the many cases of primary glaucoma in which IOP is not raised.

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PMID: 8552370


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