Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCT-A) in an animal model of laser-induced choroidal neovascularization.Exp Eye Res. 2019 07; 184:162-171.EE
Aim of the study was to compare optical coherence tomography angiography (OCT-A) and conventional fluorescein angiography (FA) for quantitative analysis of the retinal and choroidal vasculature in the animal model of laser-induced choroidal neovascularization (CNV). Therefore, Dark Agouti rats underwent argon laser photocoagulation to induce CNV at D0. In vivo imaging using combined confocal scanner laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO)-based FA and OCT-A (Heidelberg Engineering GmbH, Heidelberg, Germany) was performed before and immediately after laser treatment as well as at day 2, 7, 14 and 21. OCT-A en-face images were compared to cSLO images obtained by conventional FA topographic uptake recorded using a series of different pre-defined focus settings. For a quantitative comparison of CNV imaging by OCT-A and FA, CNV area, vessel density, number of vessel junctions, total vessel length and number of vessel end points were analyzed. Subsequent ex vivo analyses of the CNV included immunofluorescence staining of vessels in retinal and RPE/choroidal/scleral flatmount preparations. We found, that OCT-A allowed for high-resolution non-invasive imaging of the superficial, intermediate and deep retinal capillary plexus as well as the choroidal blood vessels in rats. Compared with OCT-A, visualization of CNV progression by invasive FA was less accurate, in particular the deep vascular plexus was visualized in more detail by OCT-A. The area of neovascularization was mainly detected in the deep retinal vascular plexus, outer nuclear layer (ONL), ellipsoid zone (EZ) and the choroid. Within the laser lesions, signs of CNV formation occurred at day 7 with progression in size and number of small vessels until day 21. Due to leakage and staining effects, CNV areas appeared significantly larger in FA compared to OCT-A images (p ≤ 0.0001 for all tested layers). Vessel density, number of vessel junctions, total vessel length and number of vessel end points were significantly higher in intermediate vascular plexus (IVP) and deep vascular plexus (DVP) in OCT-A compared to FA images. Overall, CNV area in flatmounts was similar to OCT-A results and much smaller compared to the area of dye leakage by FA. This study demonstrates that in vivo OCT-A imaging in small animals is feasible and allows for precise analysis of the formation of new blood vessel formation in the animal model of laser-induced CNV. Given its superior axial resolution, sensitivity and non-invasiveness compared to conventional FA imaging, OCT-A opens the door for a more detailed evaluation of CNV development in such a model and, thus, enables the analysis of the response to novel therapeutic interventions in longitudinal in vivo studies.