Aim: To identify and confirm the presence of neural elements in idiopathic epiretinal membranes removed from patients’ eyes during vitrectomy with epiretinal membrane peeling.
Methods: Human epiretinal membranes from patients with no other known eye disease and of varying durations were labelled immunohistochemically with antibodies for neurofilament protein, laminin and either vimentin or GFAP; proteins expressed in ganglion cells, the inner limiting membrane (ILM), and Muller cells, respectively.
Results: Anti-neurofilament labelled neurites, presumed to originate from ganglion cells, were found in all 32 idiopathic epiretinal membranes examined. The neurites were only observed in regions of anti-vimentin or -GFAP labelled glial cells, both of which were observed embedded in anti-laminin labelled material assumed to originate from the ILM.
Conclusions: We show that neurofilamentous processes, presumed to originate from retinal ganglion cells, are found universally in idiopathic epiretinal membranes, suggesting that the presence of these membranes is sufficient to stimulate neurite growth in the absence of trauma or disease. In addition, since neurites were invariably found in association with glial cells, the glia may play a permissive role in neurite growth both within the retina and into extra-retinal glial membranes.
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Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: All procedures had institutional research ethics committee approval and adhered to the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki.
Patient consent: Patient consent was obtained.