Background: The impact of retinal pathology detected by high-resolution imaging on vision remains largely unexplored. Therefore, the aim of the study was to achieve high-resolution structure-function correlation of the human macula in vivo.
Methodology/principal findings: To obtain high-resolution tomographic and topographic images of the macula spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO), respectively, were used. Functional mapping of the macula was obtained by using fundus-controlled microperimetry. Custom software allowed for co-registration of the fundus mapped microperimetry coordinates with both SD-OCT and cSLO datasets. The method was applied in a cross-sectional observational study of retinal diseases and in a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of intravitreal ranibizumab in macular telangietasia type 2. There was a significant relationship between outer retinal thickness and retinal sensitivity (p<0.001) and neurodegeneration leaving less than about 50 µm of parafoveal outer retinal thickness completely abolished light sensitivity. In contrast, functional preservation was found if neurodegeneration spared the photoreceptors, but caused quite extensive disruption of the inner retina. Longitudinal data revealed that small lesions affecting the photoreceptor layer typically precede functional detection but later cause severe loss of light sensitivity. Ranibizumab was shown to be ineffective to prevent such functional loss in macular telangietasia type 2.
Conclusions/significance: Since there is a general need for efficient monitoring of the effectiveness of therapy in neurodegenerative diseases of the retina and since SD-OCT imaging is becoming more widely available, surrogate endpoints derived from such structure-function correlation may become highly relevant in future clinical trials.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00504400.