Observations of vascularization of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and formation of vitreo-retinal membranes (VRMs) in Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats with inherited retinal dystrophy suggest that vascular proliferation occurs in this model. To test this hypothesis, we studied the progression of vascular changes in RCS and age-matched control rats using quantitative light microscope morphometry and electron microscopy. At 2 weeks, prior to photoreceptor degeneration, the dystrophic retina is comparable with the control. By 2 months, extensive degeneration of photoreceptor cells results in significant thinning of the dystrophic retina as compared with the control. Signs of vascular degeneration are evident at the electron microscope level - 'ghost' vessels consisting of acellular basal lamina surrounded by amorphous electron-dense material; degenerating endothelial cells and pericytes; and abnormal deposits of extracellular matrix (ECM) material around blood vessels. Vascular degeneration is accompanied by glial changes in the form of necrotic perivascular glial processes and abnormal ECM deposits among the altered Muller cell processes. At 2-4 months in the dystrophic retina, numbers of vessel profiles in dystrophic retinas are decreased as compared with controls. However, vascular degeneration is overshadowed by the formation of numerous capillary tufts within the RPE layer, which together with retinal thinning results in increased vessel density. Between 4-12 months, the retinal thickness diminishes further, vascularization of the RPE increases, vitreo-retinal membranes are formed, and vascular density increases. In summary, following an initial period of vascular degeneration, vascularization of the RPE is accompanied by an increase in retinal vessel density and by the formation of vitreo-retinal membranes.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||15|
|Journal||Current Eye Research|
|State||Published - 1989|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience