Spontaneously occurring fundus findings observed using confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy in wild type Sprague Dawley rats

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Non-invasive in vivo imaging is an increasingly used component of pre-clinical research. However, to reliably interpret data, it may be necessary to identify and document pre-existent findings prior to initiating long-term or intensive protocols, particularly where toxicity or efficacy is under investigation. Here we report here spontaneously occurring findings from the Sprague Dawley (SD) rat eye using multi-modal confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO).


As part of ongoing studies, with the goal of excluding animals with abnormalities from further investigation, a total of 165 wild type SD rats (312 eyes) were assessed using cSLO imaging at baseline prior to initiating experiments to detect, describe, and determine the prevalence of spontaneous fundus findings.


Using fundus autofluorescence (FAF) as the primary screening modality, over 30% of analyzed eyes possessed some fundus finding that differed from the normal composite reference image. Unexpectedly, 100% of eyes demonstrated a diffuse hyperfluorescent region in the posterior pole that was ultimately considered normal, and formed part of the reference. Evaluated by three independent reviewers, five groups of FAF abnormalities were defined, based primarily on shape and size of the lesion. Of these, the most extensive lesions were further analyzed using infrared reflectance (IR) and red free (RF) imaging. White light and autofluorescent microscopy of excised tissue confirmed that the extensive lesions were derived from abnormalities in both the isolated retina and posterior eyecups.


Given the newly described hyperfluorescent glow that appears in all eyes, and the high basal rate of spontaneous lesions in the outbred SD rat, we suggest that investigators be aware of the variants of normal, and that baseline in vivo screening be considered prior to initiating intensive or expensive investigation.

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