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Exp Eye Res. 2000 Aug;71(2):153-65.

Vascular remnants in the rabbit vitreous body. II. Enzyme digestion and immunohistochemical studies.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital, Groningen, The Netherlands.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the composition of ghost vessels and the newly identified intravitreal structures type 1 and 2 (IVS-1 and 2) observed in the rabbit vitreous body. Rabbit eyes (n = 10, 0.5- approximately 36 months of age) were fixed and embedded in plastic. Post-embedding immuno transmission electron microscopy and enzyme digestion methods specifically directed at vascular extracellular matrix components (collagen IV, elastin and hyaluronan) were used in order to confirm the postulated vascular origin of IVS-1 and 2. In addition, markers of vitreous extracellular matrix components (collagen II, hyaluronan) were used. The postulated vascular nature of ghost vessels and IVS-1 was confirmed by a positive labelling with anti-collagen IV, whereas the demonstration of elastin (by anti-elastin antibodies and elastase digestion) in IVS-1 and 2 confirms their arterial origin. These vascular remnants were also labelled with a hyaluronan marker and with anti-collagen II. The presence of remnants of the hyaloid artery system throughout the vitreous matrix is in conflict with a strict spatial separation between the primary and secondary vitreous during embryonic development as proposed in the literature. It strongly supports an alternative theory which suggests an interactive remodelling of this matrix. The presence of hyaluronan in remnants of the hyaloid system is inconclusive, since hyaluronan is a component both of the adult vitreous matrix and of the vascular extracellular matrix. The presence of collagen II in vascular structures is highly interesting, since it supports another challenging theory, which suggests that lamellae develop alongside tracts formerly occupied by the larger hyaloid vessels.

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