PNAS Nexus. 2023 May 2;2(5):pgad148. doi: 10.1093/pnasnexus/pgad148. eCollection 2023 May.
Eye diseases are diagnosed by visualizing often irreversible structural changes occurring late in disease progression, such as retinal ganglion cell loss in glaucoma. The retina and optic nerve head have high mitochondrial energy need. Early mitochondrial/energetics dysfunction may predict vulnerability to permanent structural changes. In the in vivo murine eye, we used light-based resonance Raman spectroscopy (RRS) to assess noninvasively the redox states of mitochondria and hemoglobin which reflect availability of electron donors (fuel) and acceptors (oxygen). As proof of principle, we demonstrated that the mitochondrial redox state at the optic nerve head correlates with later retinal ganglion loss after acute intraocular pressure (IOP) elevation. This technology can potentially map the metabolic health of eye tissue in vivo complementary to optical coherence tomography, defining structural changes. Early detection (and normalization) of mitochondrial dysfunction before irreversible damage could lead to prevention of permanent neural loss.