Three-dimensional evaluation of retinal ganglion cell axon regeneration and pathfinding in whole mouse tissue after injury.
The mature optic nerve cannot regenerate when injured, leaving victims of traumatic nerve damage or diseases such as glaucoma with irreversible visual losses. Recent studies have identified ways to stimulate retinal ganglion cells to regenerate axons part-way through the optic nerve, but it remains unknown whether mature axons can reenter the brain, navigate to appropriate target areas, or restore vision. We show here that with adequate stimulation, retinal ganglion cells are able to regenerate axons the full length of the visual pathway and on into the lateral geniculate nucleus, superior colliculus, and other visual centers. Regeneration partially restores the optomotor response, depth perception, and circadian photoentrainment, demonstrating the feasibility of reconstructing central circuitry for vision after optic nerve damage in mature mammals.