Objective: To determine whether the angiogenic peptide vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is sufficient to produce iris neovascularization in a nonhuman primate (Macaca fascicularis).
Methods: Eight eyes of 4 animals were studied. The 165-amino acid isoform of human recombinant VEGF (VEGF165) was injected into the vitreous of 5 cynomolgus monkey eyes (doses ranging from 0.25-2.5 micrograms per injection). Equal amounts of inactivated human recombinant VEGF (2 eyes) or vehicle (1 eye) were injected into contralateral control eyes. Eyes were assessed by slitlamp biomicroscopy, tonometry, iris color photography, fluorescein angiography, histopathologic examination, and immunostaining with antibodies against proliferating cell nuclear antigen.
Results: All 5 bioactive VEGF-injected eyes developed neovascularization with dilated and tortuous iris vessels that leaked fluorescein. None of the 3 control eyes exhibited any iris vascular changes. Inflammation was absent in both treatment groups. A dose response to VEGF was observed in the single animal that received 2.5 micrograms and 0.25 microgram in the right and left eyes, respectively. Iris vessel endothelial cells were positive for proliferating cell nuclear antigen in the bioactive VEGF-injected eyes only. Injections of 1.25 micrograms of VEGF every 3 days during a 30-day period produced advanced iris neovascularization, ectropion uvea, and neovascular glaucoma.
Conclusions: Intravitreal injections of recombinant human VEGF165 in amounts comparable with those measured in eyes with active neovascularization are sufficient to produce noninflammatory iris neovascularization in a nonhuman primate. Prolonged exposure to VEGF165 can produce ectropion uveae and neovascular glaucoma.