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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Aug 17;96(17):9944-8.

Inhibition of nitric-oxide synthase 2 by aminoguanidine provides neuroprotection of retinal ganglion cells in a rat model of chronic glaucoma.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Glaucoma is an optic neuropathy with cupping of the optic disk, degeneration of retinal ganglion cells, and characteristic visual field loss. Because elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major risk factor for progression of glaucoma, treatment has been based on lowering IOP. We previously demonstrated inducible nitric-oxide synthase (NOS-2) in the optic nerve heads from human glaucomatous eyes and from rat eyes with chronic, moderately elevated IOP. Using this rat model of unilateral glaucoma, we treated a group of animals for 6 months with aminoguanidine, a relatively specific inhibitor of NOS-2, and compared them with an untreated group. At 6 months, untreated animals had pallor and cupping of the optic disks in the eyes with elevated IOP. Eyes of aminoguanidine-treated animals with similar elevations of IOP appeared normal. We quantitated retinal ganglion cell loss by retrograde labeling with Fluoro-Gold. When compared with their contralateral control eyes with normal IOP, eyes with elevated IOP in the untreated group lost 36% of their retinal ganglion cells; the eyes with similarly elevated IOP in the aminoguanidine-treated group lost less than 10% of their retinal ganglion cells. Pharmacological neuroprotection by inhibition of NOS-2 may prove useful for the treatment of patients with glaucoma.

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