Transcorneal electrical stimulation shows neuroprotective effects in retinas of light-exposed rats.
Schatz A., Arango-Gonzalez B., Fischer D., Enderle H., Bolz S., Röck T., Naycheva L., Grimm C., Messias A., Zrenner E., Bartz-Schmidt KU., Willmann G., Gekeler F.
PURPOSE: To examine the effects of transcorneal electrical stimulation (TES) on retinal degeneration of light-exposed rats. METHODS: Thirty-three Sprague Dawley albino rats were divided into three groups: STIM (n = 15) received 60 minutes of TES, whereas SHAM (n = 15) received identical sham stimulation 2 hours before exposure to bright light with 16,000 lux; healthy animals (n = 3) served as controls for histology. At baseline and weekly for 3 consecutive weeks, dark- and light-adapted electroretinography was used to assess retinal function. Analysis of the response versus luminance function retrieved the parameters Vmax (saturation amplitude) and k (luminance to reach ½Vmax). Retinal morphology was assessed by histology (hematoxylin-eosin [HE] staining; TUNEL assay) and immunohistochemistry (rhodopsin staining). RESULTS: Vmax was higher in the STIM group compared with SHAM 1 week after light damage (mean intra-individual difference between groups 116.06 μV; P = 0.046). The b-wave implicit time for the rod response (0.01 cd.s/m²) was lower in the STIM group compared with the SHAM group 2 weeks after light damage (mean intra-individual difference between groups 5.78 ms; P = 0.023); no other significant differences were found. Histological analyses showed photoreceptor cell death (TUNEL and HE) in SHAM, most pronounced in the superior hemiretina. STIM showed complete outer nuclear layer thickness preservation, reduced photoreceptor cell death, and preserved outer segment length compared with SHAM (HE and rhodopsin). CONCLUSIONS: This sham-controlled study shows that TES can protect retinal cells against mild light-induced degeneration in Sprague Dawley rats. These findings could help to establish TES as a treatment in human forms of retinal degenerative disease.