Effect of lycium barbarum (Wolfberry) on alleviating axonal degeneration after partial optic nerve transection

Hong Ying Li, Yi Wen Ruan, Phillis Wan-Foon Kau, Kin Chiu, Raymond Chuen-Chung Chang, Ho Lung Henry Chan, Kwok Fai So

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Corp. Our previous results showed that the polysaccharides extracted from Lycium barbarum (LBP) could delay secondary degeneration of retinal ganglion cell bodies and improve the function of the retinas after partial optic nerve transection (PONT). Although the common degeneration mechanisms were believed to be shared by both neuronal bodies and axons, recently published data from slow Wallerian degeneration mutant (Wlds) mice supported the divergence in the mechanisms of them. Therefore, we want to determine if LBP could also delay the degeneration of axons after PONT. Microglia/macrophages were thought to be a source of reactive oxygen species after central nervous system (CNS) injury. After PONT, however, oxidative stress was believed to occur prior to the activation of microglia/macrophages in the areas vulnerable to secondary degeneration both in the optic nerves (ONs) and the retinas. But the results did not take into account the morphological changes of microglia/macrophages after their activation. So we examined the morphology in addition to the response magnitude of microglia/macrophages to determine their time point of activation. In addition, the effects of LBP on the activation of microglia/macrophages were investigated. The results showed that (1) LBP reduced the loss of axons in the central ONs and preserved the g-ratio (axon diameter/ fiber diameter) in the ventral ONs although no significant effect was detected in the dorsal ONs; (2) microglia/macrophages were activated in the ONs by 12 h after PONT; (3) LBP decreased the response magnitude of microglia/macrophages 4 weeks after PONT. In conclusion, our results showed that LBP could delay secondary degeneration of the axons, and LBP could also inhibit the activation of microglia/macrophages. Therefore, LBP could be a promising herbal medicine to delay secondary degeneration in the CNS via modulating the function of microglia/macrophages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-417
Number of pages15
JournalCell Transplantation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Lycium barbarum
  • Macrophage
  • Optic nerve (ON)
  • Partial transection
  • Secondary degeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation


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