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Jens Horstmann, Hinnerk Schulz-Hildebrandt, Felix Bock, Sebastian Siebelmann, Eva Lankenau, Gereon Hüttmann, Philipp Steven, Claus Cursiefen; Label-Free In Vivo Imaging of Corneal Lymphatic Vessels Using Microscopic Optical Coherence Tomography. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(13):5880-5886. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.17-22286.
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Corneal neovascularization, in particular lymphangiogenesis, is a limiting factor in corneal transplant survival. Novel treatment approaches focus on (selective) inhibition and regression of lymphatic vessels. Imaging clinically invisible corneal lymphatic vessels is a prerequisite for these strategies. Using a murine model, this study investigates whether corneal lymphatic vessels can be imaged using microscopic optical coherence tomography (mOCT).
Corneal neovascularization was induced by intrastromal placement of 11.0 nylon sutures in one eye of BALB/c mice. After 2 weeks, cross-sectional images and volumes of the corneas with a 0.5 mm lateral and axial field of view were acquired using a custom-built mOCT system enabling a resolution of 1 μm at a B-scan rate of 165/s. Three of the six animals received an additional intrastromal injection of India ink 24 hours before the measurement to stain the corneal lymphatic system in vivo. Immunohistochemistry using CD31 and LYVE-1 was used to validate the mOCT findings.
Using mOCT, lymphatic vessels were visible as dark vessel-like structures with the lumen lacking a hyperreflective wall and mostly lacking cells. However, individual, slowly moving particles, which most likely are immune cells, occasionally could be observed inside the lumen. In lymphatic vessels of ink-stained corneas, hyperreflection and shadowing underneath was observed. Ink-filled lymphatic vessels were colocalized in consecutive corneal flat mounts of the same specimen.
Corneal lymphatic vessels can be imaged using mOCT. This novel approach opens new options for noninvasive clinical imaging of corneal lymphatic vessels for diagnostic and therapeutic indications.
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