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July 1995

Retinal Pigment Epithelial Repopulation in Monkeys After Submacular Surgery

Arch Ophthalmol. 1995;113(7):932-938. doi:10.1001/archopht.1995.01100070106033

Background:  Transplantation of retinal pigment epithelium may be a treatment for retinal diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and hereditary macular degeneration. Before transplantation studies are undertaken, questions concerning repopulation of retinal pigment epithelial cells in situ and photoreceptor repair after submacular surgery need to be addressed.

Methods:  We removed the retinal pigment epithelium from Bruch's membrane in the macaque monkey in the macula and outside the vascular arcades. This model allowed the study of in situ retinal pigment epithelium regrowth and photoreceptor repair for 9 months following débridement.

Results:  Fluorescein angiography revealed a window defect in the area of denuded retinal pigment epithelium. Histologic studies revealed repopulated nonpigmented retinal pigment epithelial cells in the denuded areas in both the early and late periods. At 9 months, the repopulated retinal pigment epithelium was associated with repaired, normal-appearing photoreceptor outer segments. Retinal pigment epithelium regrowth was observed only if Bruch's membrane was intact.

Conclusions:  Repopulation of retinal pigment epithelium in the adult primate can occur rapidly and can support the repair of damaged photoreceptors following submacular surgery.