Objective: To determine whether diabeteslike lesions associated with the proliferative stage of diabetic retinopathy develop in galactose-fed dogs, since studies designed to define the complex biochemical effects of prolonged hyperglycemia on retinal vessels have been hampered by the lack of an animal model that mirrors both the early and advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy.
Methods: Eyes from 9-month-old male beagles fed a daily diet containing either 30% nonnutrient filler (control diet) or 30% galactose (galactose diet) for up to 84 months were enucleated and histologically examined.
Results: Retinal vessel changes associated with the proliferative stage were observed in two of nine galactose-fed dogs while the remainder demonstrated retinal changes that included the appearance of microaneurysms, acellular capillary beds associated with areas of nonperfusion, and intraretinal microvascular abnormalities. Proliferative changes were evidenced by the formation of preretinal fibrous membranes and the appearance of fibrovascular membranes on the retinal surface and on the posterior hyaloid membrane. No retinal lesions were observed in similar dogs fed a control diet for up to 84 months.
Conclusion: The galactose-fed dog appears to be the first animal model that can develop diabeteslike retinal vessel changes associated with both the early and advanced stages of retinopathy, including the proliferative stage.