PURPOSE: Hypothermia has been shown to be neuroprotective in the therapy of ischemic stroke in the brain. To date no studies exist on the level of the inner retina and it is unclear if hypothermia would prolong the ischemic tolerance time of retinal ganglion cells, which are decisive in many ischemic retinopathies.
METHODS: Bovine eyes were enucleated and stored either at 21 degrees C or 37 degrees C for 100 or 340 minutes, respectively. Afterwards the globes were dissected, the retina was prepared and either the spontaneous ganglion cell responses were measured or the retina was incubated as an organotypic culture for additional 24 hours. After incubation the retina was either processed for histology (H&E and DAPI staining) or real-time PCR (Thy-1 expression) was performed.
RESULTS: Hypothermia prolonged ganglion cell survival up to 340 minutes under ischemic conditions. In contrast to eyes kept at 37 degrees C the eyes stored at 21 degrees C still showed spontaneous ganglion cell spiking (56.8% versus 0%), a 5.8 fold higher Thy-1 mRNA expression (not significant, but a trend) and a preserved retinal structure after 340 minutes of ischemia.
CONCLUSION: Hypothermia protects retinal ganglion cells against ischemia and prolongs their ischemic tolerance time.