Neurochemical Research

, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 2126–2133 | Cite as

Promoting Optic Nerve Regeneration in Adult Mice with Pharmaceutical Approach

  • Kin-Sang Cho
  • Dong Feng Chen
Original Paper


Our previous research has suggested that lack of Bcl-2-supported axonal growth mechanisms and the presence of glial scarring following injury are major impediments of optic nerve regeneration in postnatal mice. Mice overexpressing Bcl-2 and simultaneously carrying impairment in glial scar formation supported robust optic nerve regeneration in the postnatal stage. To develop a therapeutic strategy for optic nerve damage, the combined effects of chemicals that induce Bcl-2 expression and selectively eliminate mature astrocytes—scar forming cells—were examined in mice. Mood-stabilizer, lithium, has been shown to induce Bcl-2 expression and stimulate axonal outgrowth in retinal ganglion cells in culture and in vivo. Moreover, astrotoxin (alpha-aminoadipate), a glutamate analogue, selectively kills astrocytes while has minimal effects on surrounding neurons. In the present study, we sought to determine whether concurrent applications of lithium and astrotoxin were sufficient to induce optic nerve regeneration in mice. Induction of Bcl-2 expression was detected in the ganglion cell layer (GCL) of mice that received a lithium diet in compared with control-treated group. Moreover, efficient elimination of astrocytes and glial scarring was observed in the optic nerve of mice treated with astrotoxin. Simultaneous application of lithium and astrotoxin, but not any of the drugs alone, induced robust optic nerve regeneration in adult mice. These findings further support that a combinatorial approach of concurrent activation of Bcl-2-supported growth mechanism and suppression of glial scarring is required for successful regeneration of the severed optic nerve in adult mice. They suggest a potential therapeutic strategy for treating optic nerve and CNS damage.


Axon regeneration Lithium Astrocyte Bcl-2 Optic nerve L-α-aminoadipate 



Grant supports: EY017641 from the National Eye Institute; Department of Defense (W81XWH-04-2-0008); Massachusetts Lion’s Eye Research Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Schepens Eye Research InstituteHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of OphthalmologyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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