Purpose: Transgenic pigs with rhodopsin (Pro347Leu) mutation exhibited rod-cone degeneration. We compared the pathologic characteristics of the rod degeneration versus those of the cone cells.
Methods: The posterior and peripheral retinas of these transgenic pigs of age 4, 6, 8, 12, 24 and 33 weeks and normal pigs of age 4 and 8 weeks were studied by light and EM and morphometry.
Results: The pathologic changes observed in the posterior and peripheral retinas of the transgenic pigs could be conveniently described in 3 phases: I) an initial phase of rapid and extensive degeneration of the rod cells in the first 6 weeks of age; II) an acute phase of cone cell degeneration involving approximately half of the population and lingering rod degeneration in the 6 to 12 weeks of age; and III) a partial cone recovery to be followed by a chronic degenerative phase of the remaining cones cells from 12 to 33 weeks of age.
Conclusion: Our study showed that the degenerative changes of rod cells could be differentiated from those of the cone cells. Cone and rod populations degenerated along different time schedule with different pathologic features. Hence, treatment for retinitis pigmentosa might vary with the different stages of the disease.