Objective To investigate the effect of molecular hydrogen (H2) in a rat model subjected to optic nerve crush (ONC). Methods We tested the hypothesis that after optic nerve crush (ONC), retinal ganglion cell (RGC) could be protected by H2. Rats in different groups received saline or hydrogen-rich saline every day for 14 days after ONC. Retinas from animals in each group underwent measurements of hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining, cholera toxin beta (CTB) tracing, gamma synuclein staining, and terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining 2 weeks post operation. Flash visual evoked potentials (FVEP) and pupillary light reflex (PLR) were then tested to evaluate the function of optic nerve. The malondialdehyde (MDA) level in retina was evaluated. Results H&E, gamma synuclein staining and CTB tracing showed that the survival rate of RGCs in hydrogen saline-treated group was significantly higher than that in saline-treated group. Apoptosis of RGCs assessed by TUNEL staining were less observed in hydrogen saline-treated group. The MDA level in retina of H2 group was much lower than that in placebo group. Furthermore, animals treated with hydrogen saline showed better function of optic nerve in assessments of FVEP and PLR. Conclusion These results demonstrated that H2 protects RGCs and helps preserve the visual function after ONC and had a neuroprotective effect in a rat model subjected to ONC.
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