Histological evidence for revascularisation of an autologous retinal pigment epithelium-choroid graft in the pig
Background: Translocation of a free autologous graft consisting of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), Bruch's membrane, choriocapillaris and choroid in patients with exudative age-related macular degeneration is currently being evaluated in clinical practice. Angiographic studies in these patients suggest that their grafts become revascularised. Aim: To investigate the histological evidence of revascularisation of the graft in a porcine model. Methods: In 11 pigs (11 eyes), an RPE-choroid graft was translocated from the mid-periphery to an intact or an intentionally damaged RPE and Bruch's membrane at the recipient site. The eyes were enucleated 1 week or 3 months after surgery. Tissue sections were evaluated using immunohistochemistry. Results: Bridging vessels between recipient layer and graft were identified from 1 week to 3 months after surgery. This reconnection occurred regardless of whether the Bruch's membrane of the recipient site was left intact or intentionally damaged at the time of transplantation. The vasculature of the graft appeared open and perfused. Vessels with transcapillary pillars and conglomerates of small new vessels were present in the graft. Conclusions: This study showed histological evidence for revascularisation by angiogenesis of a free autologous RPE-choroid graft.