Purpose: We determine whether intravitreal angiopoietin-1 combined with the short coiled-coil domain of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein by adeno-associated viral serotype 2 (AAV2.COMP-Ang1) delivery following the onset of vascular damage could rescue or repair damaged vascular beds and attenuate neuronal atrophy and dysfunction in the retinas of aged diabetic mice.
Methods: AAV2.COMP-Ang1 was bilaterally injected into the vitreous of 6-month-old male Ins2Akita mice. Age-matched controls consisted of uninjected C57BL/6J and Ins2Akita males, and of Ins2Akita males injected with PBS or AAV2.REPORTER (AcGFP or LacZ). Retinal thickness and visual acuity were measured in vivo at baseline and at the 10.5-month endpoint. Ex vivo vascular parameters were measured from retinal flat mounts, and Western blot was used to detect protein expression.
Results: All three Ins2Akita control groups showed significantly increased deep vascular density at 10.5 months compared to uninjected C57BL/6J retinas (as measured by vessel area, length, lacunarity, and number of junctions). In contrast, deep microvascular density of Ins2Akita retinas treated with AAV2.COMP-Ang1 was more similar to uninjected C57BL/6J retinas for all parameters. However, no significant improvement in retinal thinning or diabetic retinopathy-associated visual loss was found in treated diabetic retinas.
Conclusions: Deep retinal microvasculature of diabetic Ins2Akita eyes shows late stage changes consistent with disorganized vascular proliferation. We show that intravitreally injected AAV2.COMP-Ang1 blocks this increase in deep microvascularity, even when administered subsequent to development of the first detectable vascular defects. However, improving vascular normalization did not attenuate neuroretinal degeneration or loss of visual acuity. Therefore, additional interventions are required to address neurodegenerative changes that are already underway.