Purpose: To visualize retinal pigment epithelial cells in vivo by fundus autofluorescence imaging using a confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope.
Design: Experimental study and observational case report.
Methods: Digital in vivo autofluorescence images were recorded with a confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope (excitation, 488 nm; emission, >500 nm) and compared with confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope and fluorescence microscopic recordings from human donor eyes.
Results: A uniform pattern of the polygonal retinal pigment epithelial cell layer was visualized in vivo outside of absorbing retinal vessels and macular pigment. Autofluorescence intensities of individual cells showed marked variation. The pattern corresponded to in vitro findings. Visualization is based on the topographic distribution of autofluorescent lipofuscin granules and melanin granules in apical retinal pigment epithelium cytoplasm.
Conclusions: High-resolution autofluorescence imaging may be useful to determine morphologic and lipofuscin-dependent alterations in retinal diseases and may be applicable for monitoring effects of therapeutic interventions targeting the retinal pigment epithelium.