Bilateral nerve alterations in a unilateral experimental neurotrophic keratopathy model: a lateral conjunctival approach for trigeminal axotomy. PLoS One 2013;8(8):e70908.Abstract.
To study bilateral nerve changes in a newly developed novel mouse model for neurotrophic keratopathy by approaching the trigeminal nerve from the lateral fornix. Surgical axotomy of the ciliary nerve of the trigeminal nerve was performed in adult BALB/c mice at the posterior sclera. Axotomized, contralateral, and sham-treated corneas were excised on post-operative days 1, 3, 5, 7 and 14 and immunofluorescence histochemistry was performed with anti-β-tubulin antibody to evaluate corneal nerve density. Blink reflex was evaluated using a nylon thread. The survival rate was 100% with minimal bleeding during axotomy and a surgical time of 8±0.5 minutes. The blink reflex was diminished at day 1 after axotomy, but remained intact in the contralateral eyes in all mice. The central and peripheral subbasal nerves were not detectable in the axotomized cornea at day 1 (p<0.001), compared to normal eyes (101.3±14.8 and 69.7±12.0 mm/mm² centrally and peripherally). Interestingly, the subbasal nerve density in the contralateral non-surgical eyes also decreased significantly to 62.4±2.8 mm/mm² in the center from day 1 (p<0.001), but did not change in the periphery (77.3±11.7 mm/mm², P = 0.819). Our novel trigeminal axotomy mouse model is highly effective, less invasive, rapid, and has a high survival rate, demonstrating immediate loss of subbasal nerves in axotomized eyes and decreased subbasal nerves in contralateral eyes after unilateral axotomy. This model will allow investigating the effects of corneal nerve damage and serves as a new model for neurotrophic keratopathy.