PURPOSE - Axonal damage and loss of neurons correlate with permanent vision loss and neurologic disability in patients with optic neuritis and multiple sclerosis (MS). Current therapies involve immunomodulation, with limited effects on neuronal damage. The authors examined potential neuroprotective effects in optic neuritis by SRT647 and SRT501, two structurally and mechanistically distinct activators of SIRT1, an enzyme involved in cellular stress resistance and survival.
METHODS - Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS, was induced by immunization with proteolipid protein peptide in SJL/J mice. Optic neuritis developed in two thirds of eyes with significant retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss detected 14 days after immunization. RGCs were labeled in a retrograde fashion with fluorogold by injection into superior colliculi. Optic neuritis was detected by inflammatory cell infiltration of the optic nerve.
RESULTS - Intravitreal injection of SIRT1 activators 0, 3, 7, and 11 days after immunization significantly attenuated RGC loss in a dose-dependent manner. This neuroprotective effect was blocked by sirtinol, a SIRT1 inhibitor. Treatment with either SIRT1 activator did not prevent EAE or optic nerve inflammation. A single dose of SRT501 on day 11 was sufficient to limit RGC loss and to preserve axon function.
CONCLUSIONS - SIRT1 activators provide an important potential therapy to prevent the neuronal damage that leads to permanent neurologic disability in optic neuritis and MS patients. Intravitreal administration of SIRT1 activators does not suppress inflammation in this model, suggesting that their neuroprotective effects will be additive or synergistic with current immunomodulatory therapies.