Visual Impairment and Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) syndrome is a concern for long-duration space flight. Current thinking suggests that the ocular changes observed in VIIP syndrome are related to cephalad fluid shifts resulting in altered fluid pressures . In particular, we hypothesize that increased intracranial pressure (ICP) drives connective tissue remodeling of the posterior eye and optic nerve sheath (ONS). We describe here finite element (FE) modeling designed to understand how altered pressures, particularly altered ICP, affect the tissues of the posterior eye and optic nerve sheath (ONS) in VIIP. METHODS: Additional description of the modeling methodology is provided in the companion IWS abstract by Feola et al. In brief, a geometric model of the posterior eye and optic nerve, including the ONS, was created and the effects of fluid pressures on tissue deformations were simulated. We considered three ICP scenarios: an elevated ICP assumed to occur in chronic microgravity, and ICP in the upright and supine positions on earth. Within each scenario we used Latin hypercube sampling (LHS) to consider a range of ICPs, ONH tissue mechanical properties, intraocular pressures (IOPs) and mean arterial pressures (MAPs). The outcome measures were biomechanical strains in the lamina cribrosa, optic nerve and retina; here we focus on peak values of these strains, since elevated strain alters cell phenotype and induce tissue remodeling. In 3D, the strain field can be decomposed into three orthogonal components, denoted as first, second and third principal strains. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: For baseline material properties, increasing ICP from 0 to 20 mmHg significantly changed strains within the posterior eye and ONS (Fig. 1), indicating that elevated ICP affects ocular tissue biomechanics. Notably, strains in the lamina cribrosa and retina became less extreme as ICP increased; however, within the optic nerve, the occurrence of such extreme strains greatly increased as ICP was elevated (Fig. 2). In particular, c. 48 of simulations in the elevated ICP condition showed peak strains in the optic nerve that exceeded the strains expected on earth. Such extreme strains are likely important, since they represent a larger signal for mechano-responsive resident cells . The models predicted little to no anterior motion of the prelaminar neural tissue (optic nerve swelling, or papilledema, secondary to axoplasmic stasis), typically seen with elevated ICP. Specialized FE models to capture axoplasmic stasis would be required to study papilledema. These results suggest that the most notable effect of elevated ICP may occur via direct optic nerve loading, rather than through connective tissue deformation. These FE models can inform the design of future studies designed to bridge the gap between biomechanics and pathophysiological function in VIIP.
2016 NASA Human Research Program Investigators'' Workshop; Feb 08, 2016 - Feb 11, 2016; Galveston, TX; United States