Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a medical condition that affects the center of the visual field and causes blurriness or blindness. It is the leading cause of vision loss in the US – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. There are two forms of AMD; the “wet” form, of which accounts for approximately 90% of all the cases of severe vision loss from AMD, and the less severe “dry” form. To address the pathology and develop therapeutics, numerous animal models of choroidal and retinal neovascularization have been developed. At Visikol, we work closely with pharmaceutical companies to assist and facilitate macular degeneration research and to help accelerate the development of treatments for patients with AMD.
How does Wet AMD occur?
In early clinical stage of AMD, yellowish deposits, called drusen, appear to accumulate between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the Bruch’s membrane, attracting immune cells like microglia and macrophages and causing inflammation. Overtime, abnormal blood vessels infiltrates the retina, ultimately leaking blood in the retina and causes irreversible damage to the photoreceptors and rapid vision loss if left untreated.
In light of research showing that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) are essential for neovascularization formation, various anti-VEGF and anti-PDGF therapies are being developed and evaluated in choroidal and retinal neovascularization animal models. One example is FITC-dextran angiography in which the fluorescein is administered intravenously, allowing for in vivo imaging of fluorescent retinal blood vessels in anesthetized animals. At Visikol, we excel in image analysis and we use deep learning to perform high-throughput and unbiased blood vessel segmentation and quantification. Blood vessel growth and regression can therefore be measured weekly over several months, and the amount and location of blood vessel neovascularization/regression and be compared to examine the effectiveness of various potential therapeutics. In addition, we perform immunohistochemistry and confocal imaging on postmortem retina samples to examine vasculature morphology in high resolution, which also helps to confirm in vivo data, and allows for higher resolution studies of retina pathology.