Retinal safety and toxicity study of artesunate in vitro and in vivo.

Advances in ophthalmology practice and research (2023-10-17)
Bing-Wen Lu, Yu-Xiang Liang, Jin-Feng Liu, Zhong-Qing Sun, Kwok-Fai So, Kin Chiu

Artesunate (ART), a member of the artemisinin family, possesses multi-properties, including anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation, and anti-tumor. ART was recently reported to show anti-neovascularization effect on the cornea, iris, and retina. Compared to the expensive anti-VEGF treatment, this versatile, economical treatment option is attractive in the ophthalmic field. The safety and toxicity profile of ART intravitreal application are in utmost need. In this study, immortalized microglial (IMG) cells were treated with ART to determine the safe concentrations without inducing overt inflammatory reactions. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis was used to detect the cytokine expressions in IMG cells in response to ART stimulation. Various doses of ART were intravitreally injected into the right eyes of C57BL/6 mice. Retinal function was tested by electroretinogram, and retinal ganglion cell (RGC) survival was evaluated by counting Brn3a stained cells in flat-mounted retinas at 7 days after ART injection. ART below 5μM was safe for IMG cells in vitro. Both 2.5 and 5 ​μM ART treatment increased IL-10 gene expression in IMG cells while not changing IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, and Arg-1. In the in vivo study, intravitreal injection of ART below 100 ​μM did not cause deterioration in the retinal function and RGC survival of the mouse eyes, while 1 ​mM ART treatment significantly attenuated both the scotopic and photopic b-wave amplitudes and impaired RGC survival. In addition, treatment with ART of 25, 50, and 100 ​μM significantly decreased TNF-α gene expression while ART of 100 ​μM significantly increased IL-10 in the mouse retina. Intravitreal injection of 100 ​μM ART could downregulate TNF-α while upregulate IL-10 in the mouse retina without causing retinal functional deterioration and RGC loss. ART might be used as anti-inflammatory agent for retinal disorders.

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IMG Mouse Microglial Cell Line, IMG microglial cells recapitulate key features of microglial cell activation and may be used to study neuroinflammatory responses underlying Alzheimer′s disease.