Diabetic retinopathy: morphometric analysis of basement membrane thickening of capillaries in different retinal layers within arterial and venous environments

Heather Anderson, A. W. Stitt, T. A. Gardiner, D. B. Archer

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AIMS: To assess quantitatively variations in the extent of capillary basement membrane (BM) thickening between different retinal layers and within arterial and venous environments during diabetes. METHODS: One year after induction of experimental (streptozotocin) diabetes in rats, six diabetic animals together with six age-matched control animals were sacrificed and the retinas fixed for transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Blocks of retina straddling the major arteries and veins in the central retinal were dissected out, embedded in resin, and sectioned. Capillaries in close proximity to arteries or veins were designated as residing in either an arterial (AE) or a venous (VE) environment respectively, and the retinal layer in which each capillary was located was also noted. The thickness of the BM was then measured on an image analyser based two dimensional morphometric analysis system. RESULTS: In both diabetics and controls the AE capillaries had consistently thicker BMs than the VE capillaries. The BMs of both AE and VE capillaries from diabetics were thicker than those of capillaries in the corresponding retinal layer from the normal rats (p <or = 0.005). Also, in normal AE and VE capillaries and diabetic AE capillaries the BM in the nerve fibre layer (NFL) was thicker than that in either the inner (IPL) or outer (OPL) plexiform layers (p <or = 0.001). However, in diabetic VE capillaries the BMs of capillaries in the NFL were thicker than those of capillaries in the IPL (p <or = 0.05) which, in turn, had thicker BMs than capillaries in the OPL (p <or = 0.005). CONCLUSIONS: The variation in the extent of capillary BM thickening between different retinal layers within AE and VE environments may be related to differences in levels of oxygen tension and oxidative stress in the retina around arteries compared with that around veins.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1120-1123
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 1995

Bibliographical note

LR: 20100324; JID: 0421041; 18883-66-4 (Streptozocin); OID: NLM: PMC505353; ppublish


  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane/ultrastructure
  • Capillaries/ultrastructure
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental/pathology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy/pathology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Retinal Vessels/ultrastructure
  • Streptozocin

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