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In Vivo Multimodal Imaging of Drusenoid Lesions in Rhesus Macaques


Nonhuman primates are the only mammals to possess a true macula similar to humans, and spontaneously develop drusenoid lesions which are hallmarks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Prior studies demonstrated similarities between human and nonhuman primate drusen based on clinical appearance and histopathology. Here, we employed fundus photography, spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT), fundus autofluorescence (FAF), and infrared reflectance (IR) to characterize drusenoid lesions in aged rhesus macaques. Of 65 animals evaluated, we identified lesions in 20 animals (30.7%). Using the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) grading system and multimodal imaging, we identified two distinct drusen phenotypes - 1) soft drusen that are larger and appear as hyperreflective deposits between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and Bruch's membrane on SD-OCT, and 2) hard, punctate lesions that are smaller and undetectable on SD-OCT. Both exhibit variable FAF intensities and are poorly visualized on IR. Eyes with drusen exhibited a slightly thicker RPE compared with control eyes (+3.4 μm, P=0.012). Genetic polymorphisms associated with drusenoid lesions in rhesus monkeys in ARMS2 and HTRA1 were similar in frequency between the two phenotypes. These results refine our understanding of drusen development, and provide insight into the absence of advanced AMD in nonhuman primates.

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