Inflammatory cell activity in treated neovascular age-related macular degeneration: A histologic case study

Andreas Berlin, Jeffrey D. Messinger, Prithvi Ramtohul, Chandrakumar Balaratnasingam, Randev Mendis, Daniela Ferrara, K. Bailey Freund, Christine A. Curcio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background:Imaging indicators of macular neovascularization risk can help determine patient eligibility for new treatments for geographic atrophy secondary to age-related macular degeneration. Because type 1 macular neovascularization includes inflammation, we assessed by histology the distribution of cells with inflammatory potential in two fellow eyes with age-related macular degeneration.Methods:Two eyes of a White woman in her 90's with type 3 macular neovascularization treated with antivascular endothelial growth factor were prepared for high-resolution histology. Eye-tracked spectral domain optical coherence tomography applied to the preserved donor eyes linked in vivo imaging to histology. Cells were enumerated in the intraretinal, subretinal, and subretinal retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)-basal lamina compartments on 199 glass slides. Cells with numerous organelles were considered to RPE-derived; cells with sparse RPE organelles were considered non-RPE phagocytes.Results:Both eyes had soft drusen and abundant subretinal drusenoid deposit. In the retina and subretinal space, RPE-derived cells, including hyperreflective foci, were common (n = 125 and 73, respectively). Non-RPE phagocytes were infrequent (n = 5 in both). Over drusen, RPE morphology transitioned smoothly from the age-normal layer toward the top, suggesting transdifferentiation. The sub-RPE-basal lamina space had RPE-derived cells (n = 87) and non-RPE phagocytes (n = 49), including macrophages and giant cells.Conclusion:Numerous sub-RPE-basal lamina cells of several types are consistent with the documented presence of proinflammatory lipids in drusen and aged Bruch's membrane. The relatively compartmentalized abundance of infiltrating cells suggests that drusen contents are more inflammatory than subretinal drusenoid deposit, perhaps reflecting their environments. Ectopic RPE occurs frequently. Some manifest as hyperreflective foci. More cells may be visible as optical coherence tomography technologies evolve.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1904-1913
Number of pages10
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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