The effect of postnatal growth retardation on abnormal neovascularization in the oxygen exposed neonatal rat

Curr Eye Res. 1996 Apr;15(4):403-9. doi: 10.3109/02713689608995831.


Severe retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) occurs in the smallest and sickest of premature infants. We hypothesized that, in a rat model of oxygen induced retinopathy, abnormal neovascularization would occur more frequently in larger litters where the pups are subject to postnatal growth retardation. Four litters of newborn Sprague-Dawley rats were studied; rats were randomly mixed to form two large litters (n = 25 each) and two small litters (n = 10 each). All litters were exposed to 7 days cyclic hyperoxia and hypoxia followed by 5 days in room air. ADPase stained retinae were evaluated in a masked manner for the presence and severity of abnormal neovascularization. Fluorescein perfused retinae were digitized and the ratios of vascularized:total retinal area were calculated using computer assisted image analysis. As expected, final weight in the large litters was less than in the small litters (15.3 +/- 3.8g vs. 23.4 +/- 2.1g, p < 0.001). Neovascularization occurred in 53% of rats in the large litters vs. 15% in the small litters (p = 0.009). Rats with retinae demonstrating neovascularization were smaller than those without (16.2 +/- 4.7g vs. 19.6 +/- 5.0g, p = 0.016). The severity of neovascularization in clock h was inversely correlated with final weight (rs = -0.35, p = 0.01) and ratio of vascularized:total retina area (rs = -0.46, p < 0.001). Smaller rat pups raised in larger litters, with resultant growth retardation, develop more frequent and more severe abnormal retinal neovascularization. Our results correlate with clinical experience in the premature infant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Body Weight
  • Growth Disorders / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Litter Size
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retinal Neovascularization / etiology*
  • Retinal Neovascularization / pathology
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / etiology*


  • Oxygen