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Suzanne Hughes, Huijun Yang, Tailoi Chan-Ling; Vascularization of the Human Fetal Retina: Roles of Vasculogenesis and Angiogenesis. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2000;41(5):1217-1228.
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purpose. To characterize the topography of and the cellular processes that
underlie vascularization of the human retina.
methods. The vasculature of human eyes obtained from fetuses ranging in age from
14 to 38 weeks of gestation (WG) was examined in Nissl-stained,
whole-mount preparations and by anti-CD34 immunohistochemistry.
results. The first event in retinal vascularization, apparent before 15 WG, was
the migration of large numbers of spindle-shaped mesenchymal precursor
cells from the optic disc. These cells proliferated and differentiated
to produce cords of endothelial cells. By 15 WG, some cords were
already patent and formed an immature vascular tree in the inner
retinal layers that was centered on the optic disc. These processes are
consistent with vessel formation by vasculogenesis. Angiogenesis then
increased the vascular density of this immature plexus and extended it
peripherally and temporally. Maturation of the plexus was characterized
by substantial remodeling, which involved the withdrawal of endothelial
cells into neighboring vascular segments. The outer plexus was formed
as a result of the extension of capillary-sized buds from the existing
inner vessels, a process that began around the incipient fovea between
25 and 26 WG.
conclusions. These observations suggest that the formation of primordial vessels in
the central retina is mediated by vasculogenesis, whereas angiogenesis
is responsible for increasing vascular density and peripheral
vascularization in the inner retina. In contrast, the outer plexus and
the radial peripapillary capillaries are formed by angiogenesis only.
These mechanisms of retinal vascularization appear similar to those of
vascularization of the central nervous system during
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