Elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) can result in multiple neurologic sequelae including vision loss. Inducible models of ICP elevation are lacking in model organisms, which limits our understanding of the mechanism by which increased ICP impacts the visual system. We adapted a mouse model for the sustained elevation of ICP and tested the hypothesis that elevated ICP impacts the optic nerve and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). ICP was elevated and maintained for 2 weeks, and resulted in multiple anatomic changes that are consistent with human disease including papilledema, loss of physiologic cupping, and engorgement of the optic nerve head. Elevated ICP caused a loss of RGC somas in the retina and RGC axons within the optic nerve, as well as a reduction in both RGC electrical function and contrast sensitivity. Elevated ICP also caused increased hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1 alpha expression in the ganglion cell layer. These experiments confirm that sustained ICP elevation can be achieved in mice and causes phenotypes that preferentially impact RGCs and are similar to those seen in human disease. With this model, it is possible to model human diseases of elevated ICP such as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension and Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome.
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