Development of the hyaloid, choroidal and retinal vasculatures in the fetal human eye

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Abstract

The development of the ocular vasculatures is perfectly synchronized to provide the nutritional and oxygen requirements of the forming human eye. The fetal vasculature of vitreous, which includes the hyaloid vasculature, vasa hyaloidea propria, and tunica vasculosa lentis, initially develops around 4–6 weeks gestation (WG) by hemo-vasculogenesis (development of blood and blood vessels from a common progenitor, the hemangioblast). This transient fetal vasculature expands around 12 WG by angiogenesis (budding from primordial vessels) and remains until a retinal vasculature begins to form. The fetal vasculature then regresses by apoptosis with the assistance of macrophages/hyalocytes. The human choroidal vasculature also forms by a similar process and will supply nutrients and oxygen to outer retina. This lobular vasculature develops in a dense collagenous tissue juxtaposed with a cell constitutively producing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), the retinal pigment epithelium. This epithelial/endothelial relationship is critical in maintaining the function of this vasculature throughout life and maintaining it's fenestrated state. The lobular capillary system (choriocapillaris) develops first by hemo-vasculogenesis and then the intermediate choroidal blood vessels form by angiogenesis, budding from the choriocapillaris. The human retinal vasculature is the last to develop. It develops by vasculogenesis, assembly of CXCR4+/CD39+ angioblasts or vascular progenitors perhaps using Muller cell Notch1 or axonal neuropilinin-1 for guidance of semaphorin 3A-expressing angioblasts. The fovea never develops a retinal vasculature, which is probably due to the foveal avascular zone area of retina expressing high levels of antiangiogenic factors. From these studies, it is apparent that development of the mouse ocular vasculatures is not representative of the development of the human fetal, choroidal and retinal vasculatures.

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