Axo-somatic and Dendritic Plasticity in Glaucoma

Benjamin Sivyer, PhD Oregon Health and Science University


John Morrison, MD Oregon Health and Science University
Henrique von Gersdorff, PhD Oregon Health and Science University


Glaucoma is a disease that causes the death of retinal cells that communicate with the brain. We have little knowledge of how this gradual process of cell death is influenced by other cells in the retina, and gaining insight into these mechanisms will allow us to develop new ways to treat glaucoma.

Project Details

The goal of our research is to understand how glaucoma leads to adaptive changes in the retinal neurons that connect the eye with the brain, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). In most cases of glaucoma, injury to RGCs occurs to their axons as they pass out of the eye. This optic nerve injury results in a progressive degeneration of RGCs, leading to blindness. Because glaucoma often goes undetected before a substantial number of RGCs have died, it is important to understand the early cellular events following injury. We aim to identify early changes in response to injury in an animal model of glaucoma.

Our first goal is to identify specific subsets of RGCs that will allow us to monitor the small electrical signatures of synaptic communication between retinal cells. Subsequently, we will monitor these electrical signals in the first week following injury to determine how retinal wiring and RGC function changes.

This proposal is unique in its approach to using patch-clamp electrophysiology and calcium imaging to understand the changes that occur in the fine dendritic process of RGCs, as well as the axon and cell body. We hope our research will lead to earlier diagnostic detection of glaucoma but more importantly, we aim to uncover retinal mechanisms that will allow us to slow or stop the progression of RGC degeneration following injury.