Mild carotid stenosis creates gradual, progressive, lifelong brain, and eye damage: An experimental laboratory rat model

Adi Tzameret, Yael Piontkewitz, Anat Nitzan, Nir Rudoler, Marina Bruzel, Yael Zilberstein, Hana Ziv, Sarah Pri-Chen, Arieh S. Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In humans, carotid stenosis of 70% and above might be the cause of clinical symptoms such as transient ischemic attack and stroke. No clinical or animal studies have evaluated mild carotid occlusion, and few examined unilateral occlusion. Here, Westar rats underwent bilateral or unilateral carotid occlusion of 28–45%. Long-term effects were evaluated 9–11 months later. We conducted cognitive evaluation using spatial learning in a water maze and exploration behavior in an open field. Morphology of the brain was examined by MRI using diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) and immunohistochemistry staining of the brain and eyes. Cognitive deficit was found in spatial memory and exploration behavior in both occluded groups. Brain and eyes histology presented severe damage in the bilateral group, compared to the unilateral one. DTI revealed an increase in mean diffusivity (MD) in the ventral thalamus and a decrease in fractional anisotropy in optic nerve and optic tract in bilateral rats, while unilateral rats showed only an increase in MD in the ventral pons. In those areas, a significant change in astrocytes, microglia, and number of apoptotic cells were found. Bilateral occlusion produced severe damage to both retinas, while unilateral occlusion produced damage mainly in the occluded side. We found that mild carotid stenosis, even in a unilateral occlusion, creates behavioral abnormalities presented by brain and eye histopathology. The results support our hypothesis that gradual formation of mild carotid stenosis along the life course leads to progressive damage that may create different degenerative diseases at a later age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1672-1682
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • RRID: AB_2341099
  • RRID:AB_303655
  • RRID:AB_477035
  • RRID:AB_839504
  • brain
  • common carotid
  • eye
  • internal carotid
  • stenosis


Dive into the research topics of 'Mild carotid stenosis creates gradual, progressive, lifelong brain, and eye damage: An experimental laboratory rat model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this