Purpose: The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat is an animal model for human retinal degenerative disease and posterior subcapsular cataracts (PSCs). The purpose of this study was to correlate the structure and optical quality of RCS lenses with PSCs as a function of their internalization, with normal, non-cataractous, age-matched control lenses.
Methods: Correlative light (LM), scanning electron microscopic (SEM), three-dimensional computer assisted drawings (3D-CADs) and low power helium-neon laser scan analysis were used to examine the structure and function of lenses.
Results: The optical properties (average focal length variability; sharpness of focus) of RCS rat lenses are quantitatively compromised by PSCs. Correlative LM and SEM analysis of RCS lenses at various stages of PSC internalization (1.5, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 months of age), revealed that the sutures formed by additional fiber growth were progressively more abnormal. During PSC internalization, two to nine small suture branches were formed and arranged in modified line to multiple y configurations rather than the normal three branch y sutures. These temporal changes were also chronicled in animated 3D-CAD videos derived from lens reconstructions based on LM and SEM micrographs from the selected time points stated above. However, laser scan analysis also revealed that as the PSCs of RCS rat lenses were progressively internalized, there was a steady improvement in total sharpness of focus that reached normal levels by 12 months of age. The correlation of laser scan and structural data from specific regions of lenses revealed the following: 1. The abnormal posterior sutures of RCS rats with internalized PSCs effect a greater reduction in optical quality than normal posterior sutures of age-matched controls; 2. However, the resulting abnormal suture plane area was cumulatively similar to that of age-matched controls; 3. Thus, total optical quality was similar between RCS lenses with internalized PSCs and age-matched controls by 12 months of age.
Conclusions: The results of this study show that RCS lenses with internalized PSCs can appear grossly, and indeed optically perform, at levels comparable to aged lenses. These findings are consistent with clinical observations of spontaneous recovery from PSC. The results suggest that human PSCs that occur as a consequence of retinal degenerative disease could also be the result of abnormal posterior suture growth. If this is proven to be the case, such PSCs may have some capacity for repair or recovery thereby obviating their surgical removal.