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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1995 Feb;36(2):490-6.

Galactose-induced retinal microangiopathy in rats.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706-1532.



The suitability of the galactose-fed rat as a model of diabetic retinopathy was examined in nondiabetic rats fed diets enriched with either 30% or 50% galactose for up to 2 years.


Retinal capillaries were examined by light and electron microscopy, and the prevalence or severity of diabetic-like lesions was quantitated.


Histologic evaluation of trypsin digests of retina revealed significantly greater than normal frequencies of pericyte ghosts and acellular capillaries at both 15 and 23 months receiving a 50% galactose diet. Similar lesions were observed in rats receiving a 30% galactose diet for 23 months. Capillary basement membrane thickening, dilated hypercellular capillaries (or intra-retinal microvascular abnormalities), and foci of vascular cells appeared in rats fed 50% galactose, but saccular microaneurysms characteristic of retinopathy in diabetic patients, diabetic dogs, and experimentally galactosemic dogs were not observed. Administration of the aldose reductase inhibitor, Sorbinil, to rats fed 50% galactose resulted in a significant inhibition of cataract and of galactitol accumulation in nerve and blood (by more that 90%) and retina (by 62%), but did not inhibit development of the retinal microvascular lesions.


Two years of galactosemia in rats seems to reproduce only a portion of the lesions characteristic of diabetic retinopathy in patients or dogs. Nevertheless, lesions characteristic of at least the early stages of retinopathy clearly do develop in this galactosemic rat model, and are not restrained by inhibition of retinal polyol accumulation by 62%.

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