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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1989 Jan;30(1):82-9.

The formation of autofluorescent granules in cultured human RPE.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Ophthalmology, Institute of Ophthalmology, London, England.


Although the incomplete degradation of phagocytosed outer segment discs is thought to result in the formation of lipofuscin, there has to date been no proof of this concept. We report for the first time that cultured human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells fed daily doses of isolated rod outer segments for periods of up to 3 months were capable of developing intracellular autofluorescent granules whose morphology and fluorescence characteristics were similar to lipofuscin. These autofluorescent granules were observed as early as 2 weeks following daily challenge with rod outer segments and the number of granules increased with the number of challenge doses until the experiment was terminated after 3 months of daily feeding. We also studied the effects of the antioxidant vitamin E and a drug, Centrophenoxine, which has been purported to slow the formation of lipofuscin formation in vivo. Neither of these additives given either with the challenge or subsequently had any effect on the formation of the intracellular granules. In conclusion, the development of these "lipofuscin-like" inclusions in cultured RPE may provide a model with which to study ageing processes and may provide an understanding of the increased lipofuscin accumulation observed in certain retinal pathologies.

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