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Zhuolin Liu, Omer P. Kocaoglu, Donald T. Miller; 3D Imaging of Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells in the Living Human Retina. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(9):OCT533-OCT543. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.16-19106.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Dysfunction of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) underlies numerous retinal pathologies, but biomarkers sensitive to RPE change at the cellular level are limited. In this study, we used adaptive optics optical coherence tomography (AO-OCT) in conjunction with organelle motility as a novel contrast mechanism to visualize RPE cells and characterize their 3-dimensional (3D) reflectance profile.
Using the Indiana AO-OCT imaging system (λc = 790 nm), volumes were acquired in the macula of six normal subjects (25–61 years). Volumes were registered in 3D with subcellular accuracy, layers segmented, and RPE and photoreceptor en face images extracted and averaged. Voronoi and two-dimensional (2D) power spectra analyses were applied to the images to quantify RPE and cone packing and cone-to-RPE ratio.
Adaptive optics OCT revealed two distinct reflectance patterns at the depth of the RPE. One is characterized by the RPE interface with rod photoreceptor tips, the second by the RPE cell nuclei and surrounding organelles, likely melanin. Increasing cell contrast by averaging proved critical for observing the RPE cell mosaic, successful in all subjects and retinal eccentricities imaged. Retinal pigment epithelium mosaic packing and cell thickness generally agreed with that of histology and in vivo studies using other imaging modalities.
We have presented, to our knowledge, the first detailed characterization of the 3D reflectance profile of individual RPE cells and their relation to cones and rods in the living human retina. Success in younger and older eyes establishes a path for testing aging effects in larger populations. Because the technology is based on OCT, our measurements will aid in interpreting clinical OCT images.
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