Author(s): Alikacem N, Yoshizawa T, Nelson KD, Wilson CA
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Abstract PURPOSE: To determine whether sustained elevation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the vitreous cavity causes retinal hyperpermeability [blood-retinal barrier (BRB) breakdown] before the development of retinal neovascularization (NV) and to document the kinetics of the integrity of BRB breakdown versus time. METHODS: Poly(L-lactide-co-glycolide)based devices loaded with VEGF were implanted intravitreally in rabbit eyes. Contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods were used to identify and quantitate the retinal permeability at various time points after implantation. This was done with the newly developed MR tracer AngioMARK (Epix Medical, Boston, MA). After the MRI measurements, fundus photography and fluorescein angiography (FA) also were performed on the same set of animals. RESULTS: At 3 days after implantation, the MR images showed a significant retinal leakage into the vitreous cavity (BRB breakdown) of the VEGF-implanted eyes. To quantitate this leakage, the permeability surface area product (PS) was measured. At 3 days, the mean PS product was 1.25 +/-0.25 x 10(-5) cm3/min. Based on the VEGF in vitro release study, this 3-day BRB breakdown corresponded to a total sustained release of 7.42 +/- 0.54 microg/ml of VEGF. The fundus and FA photographs of these VEGF-implanted eyes taken at 4 days after implantation also showed a considerable level of retinal vascular dilation and tortuosity. By 12 days after implantation, the mean PS product decreased to 5.83 +/- 1.38 x 10(-6) cm3/min. However, the retinal NV was observed only after the second week after implantation. By this time, a total of 10.70 +/- 0.92 microg/ml of VEGF was released in a sustained fashion. Also, after the retinal NV development, retinal detachment also was observed. The control eyes, however, which were implanted with blank devices, remained unchanged and normal during the entire course of this study (PS = 5.57 +/- 0.66 x 10(-7) cm3/min). CONCLUSIONS. The findings indicate that sustained delivery of elevated amounts of VEGF in the vitreous cavity induces a BRB breakdown even earlier than 3 days after implantation. This was achieved after a total sustained release of 7.42 +/- 0.54 microg/ml of VEGF. This retinal leakage regressed by more than half by the time the retinal NV developed. Furthermore, a retinal detachment occurred after this retinal NV. These results are similar to proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). The sustained elevation of VEGF in the vitreous cavity of rabbit eyes is potentially a good model to test VEGF antagonists to treat or prevent PDR in humans. The quantifiable change of BRB breakdown by the contrast-enhanced MRI method is ideal to assess the therapeutic intervention in vivo without killing the animal and may prove to be clinically useful in humans.
This article was published in Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci
and referenced in Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine