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Transretinal degeneration in ageing human retina: a multiphoton microscopy analysis
  1. Y Lei1,2,
  2. N Garrahan3,
  3. B Hermann1,
  4. M P Fautsch4,
  5. D H Johnson4,
  6. M R Hernandez5,
  7. M Boulton6,
  8. J E Morgan1
  1. 1Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  2. 2Research Centre, Eye and ENT Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, PR China
  3. 3Department of Pathology, University Hospital Wales, Cardiff, UK
  4. 4Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  5. 5Department of Ophthalmology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  6. 6Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to J E Morgan, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF24 4LU, UK; morganje3{at}


Aim Retinal cell remodelling has been reported as a consistent feature of ageing. However, the degree to which this results in transretinal degeneration is unclear. To address this, the authors used multiphoton microscopy to quantify retinal degeneration in post-mortem human eyes of two age groups.

Methods Retinas from six young subjects (18–33 years old) and six older subjects (74–90 years old) were prepared as wholemount preparations. All retinas were stained with 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole and imaged by multiphoton confocal microscopy to quantify neuron densities in the retinal ganglion cell layer (RGCL), inner nuclear layer (INL) and outer nuclear layer (ONL). Neurons were counted using automated cell identification algorithms. All retinas were imaged hydrated to minimise tissue artefacts.

Results In both groups, 56% of the area within the central 4 mm eccentricity and 27% of the area with eccentricity between 4 mm and 7 mm were imaged. Compared with young subjects, the peak RGCL neuron loss in the aged subjects (25.5%) was at 1 mm eccentricity. INL and ONL neuron densities significantly decreased at 1–2 mm eccentricity (8.7%) and 0.5–4 mm eccentricity (15.6%) respectively (P <0.05). The reduction in neuron density in the INL corresponded, spatially, to the region with the greatest neuron loss in the RGCL and ONL.

Conclusions This is the first study to correlate neurodegeneration in different populations of cells in the ageing retinas. These data confirm that the greatest neuronal loss occurs in the RGCL and ONL in human ageing retinas, whereas the INL is relatively preserved.

  • Retina
  • degeneration
  • glaucoma
  • pathology
  • imaging

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  • DH Johnson and MR Hernandez are deceased

  • Funding Research into Ageing Grant 271. Grants: Research Into Ageing (Grant No 271, YL, JEM), NIH EY 15736 (MPF), NIH EY 07065 (MPF, DHJ).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.