Retinal Microvascular Patency in the Diabetic Rat

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Abstract

Purpose:

To study whether the patency to erythrocytes in retinal microvessels of diabetic rats is reduced or blocked before the vessels lose their patency to plasma flow.

Methods:

We used recognized techniques to induce diabetic and galactose related microvascular retinal lesions in rats: (1) alloxan induction (2) streptozotocin induction (3) galactose-containing diet. The rats were followed up to 17 months. We used our vascular trichrome technique to observe the effects of the ongoing diabetes on the retinal microcirculation.

Results:

A focal leakage of a plasma-borne fluorescent dye was noted around the junction of the deep retinal capillaries and the ascending venules to the superficial retinal circulation in the streptozotocin and alloxan diabetic rats by the 14th month, and, by the 16th month, retinal capillary non-perfusion and retinal vascular malformations were present. The affected vessels showed patency to microspheres (0.2 μm in diameter) but no perfusion of erythrocytes. No such changes were seen in the galactose-fed rats.

Conclusions:

(1) The location between the deep retinal capillary net and the ascending venules may be the site of early vascular leakage in the diabetic rat model, (2) the erythrocytes' passage in the affected retinal microcirculation was blocked before the development of complete blockage to plasma in diabetic rats. The logical assumption that during the development stage of retinal capillary occlusion there may be a transient stage of microvascular insufficiency was examined. The lathyrogen, imino-diproprionitrile (IDPN), had previously been effective for creating a fast-developing model of retinal vasculopathy. Using that model, we demonstrated a stage in which the retinal microvasculature was blocked to erythrocytes but not to plasma [1]. However, we questioned the applicability of our findings to more slowly developing microvasculopathies, such as diabetic retinopathy. We designed the current study to examine the presence of such stage in slowly developing microvasculopathy. Animal models that are known to induce “diabetic retinopathy-like” changes used [2–4]. The diabetic animals were followed for a period of 17 months. Starting at the 12th month, a few animals of each group were killed and the retains were examined with our trichrome method [1] for relative capillary patency to erythrocytes and plasma, for functionality of endothelial cells, and for disturbances in the blood–retinal barrier. The results of this study support the hypothesis that retinal microvascular insufficiency does exist as a temporary stage that precedes the development of complete capillary blockage in long-term developing rat models of diabetic retinopathy.

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