Using light and transmission electron microscopy, we observed novel structures in the rabbit vitreous body. They were found in 18 out of 27 eyes from rabbits 0.5-36 months of age. These structures are scattered throughout the entire vitreous matrix. By light and transmission electron microscopy, they appear to be made up of the same structural components. Based upon their morphological appearance, they can be subdivided into two groups which we provisionally named 'intravitreal structure type 1 and 2' or 'IVS-1' and 'IVS-2'. IVS-1 has a highly variable morphology (e.g. star-shaped, round, oval), whereas IVS-2 is tubular. The dimensions of IVS-1 vary in relation to the mesh diameters of the collagen matrix, while those of IVS-2 do not. In adult rabbit eyes, we observed transitions between IVS-1 and intravitreal ghost vessels (acellular remnants of blood vessels), and between IVS-1 and IVS-2. In very young rabbits (14 days) we observed intravitreal ghost vessels consisting of tightly-packed IVS-1. Therefore, we concluded that IVS-1 and 2 are related structures presumably of vascular origin. It appears that they represent fragmented and non-fragmented acellular remnants of hyaloid blood vessels. The presence of vascular remnants throughout the entire vitreous matrix of adult rabbit eyes is in conflict with existing theories on the embryonic development of the vitreous body, which describe a strict spatial separation between the primary (vascular) and secondary (avascular) vitreous. However, it strongly supports an alternative theory that explains the formation of the secondary vitreous by a process of continuous remodelling of the primary vitreous.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.