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Exp Eye Res. 2008 Nov;87(5):427-32. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.07.013. Epub 2008 Aug 8.

Age-related changes in murine limbal lymphatic vessels and corneal lymphangiogenesis.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Schwabachanlage 6, Erlangen, Germany.


Important risk factors for graft rejection after corneal transplantation are pathologic corneal lymphangiogenesis and young recipient age. Purpose of this study was to investigate whether there are age-related differences in normal murine limbal and pathologic corneal lymphatic vessels, which could partly explain the unequal outcome of corneal transplantation in young versus old recipients. Furthermore, we investigated whether these observed differences correlate with changes in allograft survival in the murine model of corneal transplantation. Corneal whole mounts from untreated young (aged 6-8 weeks), untreated old (aged 9-15 months) and young and old mice after suture-induced, inflammatory corneal neovascularization were prepared and stained with LYVE-1 as a lymphendothelial marker. Angles of corneal parts with and without a main circumferential limbal lymphatic vessel were measured and then related to the total 360 degrees of corneal circumference. Centrally directed vascular extensions from the main limbal lymphatic vessel ("sprouts") of previously untreated old mice were counted. Concerning the outgrowth of pathologic lymphatic vessels after inflammatory corneal neovascularization, the area covered with pathologic lymphatic vessels was detected by an algorithm on digitized whole mounts using cell--F software. Low-risk allogeneic (C57Bl/6 to BALB/c) corneal transplantations were performed with one recipient group being young, the other group being old mice. In young, untreated mice, 70.5% of the total corneal circumference was covered by a main circumferential limbal lymphatic vessel versus 60.8% in old, untreated mice. Comparing the number of centripedal vascular extensions from the main limbal lymphatic vessel ("sprouts"), untreated old mice had significantly less extensions than young, untreated mice (p<0.001). After an inflammatory stimulus, old mice had significantly less pathologic corneal lymphatic vessels than young mice (42% less, p<0.001). Comparing the survival proportions after corneal transplantation, old recipient mice showed a significantly better graft survival 6 weeks after transplantation (65% versus 33%, p<0.05). Thus, limbal lymphatic vascular sprouts and inflammation-induced pathologic corneal lymphangiogenesis decrease with age. The lower lymphangiogenic potency of older mice may explain the better outcome of corneal transplantations in old recipients, supporting the concept that lymphangiogenesis is an important risk-factor for corneal transplant rejection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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