Objective: To correlate potential inflammatory responses in nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) with a lesion possessing many physiologic and histologic similarities from a model of nonhuman primate NAION (pNAION). Methods: Using immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopic analysis, we evaluated the relative numbers of inflammatory cell types in the single available clinical specimen of early NAION (21 days after event). We correlated this with the temporal inflammatory response occurring in optic nerve tissue at different times following pNAION induction. Results: In pNAION, there is a previously unsuspected infiltration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes occurring almost immediately after infarct induction, followed by invasion of ED1+ extrinsic macrophages, which peaks 5 weeks after infarct. Intrinsic microglia accumulate up to 70 days after induction in the area of primary axonal loss. The analyzed human NAION specimen was similar to 21-day pNAION tissue, with extrinsic macrophages and intrinsic microglial cells in the region of focal axon loss. Conclusions: Cellular inflammation plays a major early role following white-matter (optic nerve) infarct, with both polymorphonuclear leukocyte and macrophage function involved in debris elimination and tissue remodeling. The optic nerve in NAION and its primate model are associated with early cellular inflammation, previously unsuspected, that may contribute to postinfarct optic nerve damage.
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