The influence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) progression and severity on the structural and functional integrity of the cerebral vasculature is well recognized. The retina is an extension of the brain; thus, changes in retinal vascular features may serve as markers of AD cerebrovascular pathologies. However, differentiating normal aging-versus AD-induced retinal vascular changes is unresolved. Therefore, we compared and quantified changes in superficial (SVP), intermediate (IVP), and deep (DVP) retinal vascular plexuses in young, middle-age, and old triple transgenic mouse model of AD (3xT-AD) to the changes that occur in age-matched controls (C57BL/6j). We used immunostaining combined with a novel tissue optical clearing approach along with a computational tool for quantitative analysis of vascular network alterations (vessel length and density) in SVP, IVP, and DVP. All three layers had comparable structural features and densities in young 3xTg-AD and control animals. In controls, IVP and DVP densities decreased with aging (−14% to −32% change from young to old, p < 0.05), while no changes were observed in SVP. In contrast, vascular parameters in the transgenic group decreased in all three layers with aging (−12% to −49% change from young to old, p < 0.05). Furthermore, in the old group, SVP and DVP vascular parameters were lower in the transgenics compared to age-matched controls (p < 0.05). Our analysis demonstrates that normal aging and progression of AD lead to various degrees of vascular alterations in the retina. Specifically, compared to normal aging, changes in vascular features of SVP and DVP regions of the retina are accelerated during AD progression. Considering recent advances in the field of depth-resolved imaging of retinal capillary network and microangiography, noninvasive quantitative monitoring of changes in retinal vascular network parameters of SVP and DVP may serve as markers for diagnosis and staging of Alzheimer's disease and discriminating AD-induced vascular attenuation from age-related vasculopathy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported in part by a grant from The University of Texas System Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Research Institute . Wenbo Zhang was supported by the National Institute of Health grants EY022694 , EY026629 , EY029112 , and AG055771 , Retina Research Foundation, and UT System Faculty STARs Award. We would like to acknowledge Dr. Deborah Ferrington for her critical review of the original manuscript.
- Alzheimer's disease
- Deep vascular plexus
- Intermediate vascular plexus
- Retinal vascular density
- Superficial vascular plexus
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Comparative Study
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't