Morphometric analysis of the macula in eyes with geographic atrophy due to age-related macular degeneration

Retina. 2002 Aug;22(4):464-70. doi: 10.1097/00006982-200208000-00011.


Purpose: To evaluate the extent of neural cell death in eyes with geographic atrophy (GA).

Methods: Ten eyes with GA and five age-matched control eyes were selected for morphometric analysis. The nuclei of the ganglion cell, inner nuclear, and outer nuclear layers were counted in contiguous 100-microm segments from 1,500 microm nasal to 1,500 microm temporal to the fovea.

Results: The outer nuclear layer was most severely attenuated in eyes with GA, demonstrating a 76.9% reduction relative to control eyes (P < 0.0001). A significant loss of ganglion cells (by 30.7%) was also observed (P = 0.0008). There was no significant difference in the inner nuclear layer cells (P = 0.30). Among the GA eyes, the nuclei in all three layers were significantly reduced in segments in which the retinal pigment epithelium was completely absent (P </= 0.0003).

Conclusion: Although the nuclei of the outer nuclear layer in eyes with GA were markedly attenuated, the nuclei of the inner nuclear layer were relatively preserved. There was also a significant reduction in ganglion cells in GA eyes, but considerable numbers remained even in the areas of complete retinal pigment epithelium atrophy. This finding suggests that therapies aimed at replacing outer nuclear function (such as neural retinal and retinal pigment epithelium transplantation or implantation of the intraocular retinal prosthesis) may be feasible for restoring vision in these patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrophy / etiology
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / pathology
  • Macula Lutea / pathology*
  • Macular Degeneration / complications*
  • Macular Degeneration / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / pathology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology*