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Eye (Lond). 2010 Mar;24(3):408-15. doi: 10.1038/eye.2009.318. Epub 2010 Jan 15.

Development of the human choriocapillaris.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD 21287-9115, USA.


Vasculogenesis and/or angiogenesis are thought to be the major mechanisms for new vessel formation during development. A third mechanism, haemo-vasculogenesis, has been described in which blood vessel and blood cells (haematopoiesis (expression of CD34(+)) and erythropoiesis (presence of epsilon chain of haemoglobin or Hb-epsilon(+))) differentiate from a common precursor, the haemangioblast. This review describes the mechanism(s) for development of human choroidal vascular from 6 until 22 weeks gestation (WG). Endothelial cell or EC (CD31, CD34, CD39, VEGFR-2) and angioblast (CD39, VEGFR-2) markers were present in choriocapillaris (CC) by 7 WG through 22 WG. From 6 to 8 WG, many erythroblasts (nucleated Hb-epsilon(+) RBCs) were observed in the CC layer. Erythroblasts (Hb-epsilon(+)) were also positive for CD34, CD31, and/or VEGFR-2. Proliferation of vascular cells (Ki67+), suggesting angiogenesis, was not observed until 12 WG. TEM analysis demonstrated that CC was structurally immature even at 11 WG: no basement membrane, absence of pericytes, and poorly formed lumens that were filled with filopodia. Contiguous fenestrations and significant PV-1 (protein in diaphragms of fenestrations) were not observed until 21-22 WG. Smooth muscle actin was prominent at 20 WG and the maturation of pericytes was confirmed by TEM. Therefore, the embryonic CC appears to form initially by haemo-vasculogenesis (Hb-epsilon(+)/CD31(+) cells), whereas angiogenesis (CD34(+)/Ki67(+)) appears to be the mode of intermediate and large choroidal vessel development later in the foetus. Contiguous fenestrations, mature pericytes, and EC basal lamina occur late in development, around 22 WG, which coincides with photoreceptors developing inner segments.

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