Pathological choroidal angiogenesis, a salient feature of age-related macular degeneration, leads to vision impairment and blindness. Endothelial cell (EC) proliferation assays using human retinal microvascular endothelial cells (HRMECs) or isolated primary retinal ECs are widely used in vitro models to study retinal angiogenesis. However, isolating pure murine retinal endothelial cells is technically challenging and retinal ECs may have different proliferation responses than choroidal endothelial cells and different cell/cell interactions. A highly reproducible ex vivo choroidal sprouting assay as a model of choroidal microvascular proliferation was developed. This model includes the interaction between choroid vasculature (EC, macrophages, pericytes) and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Mouse RPE/choroid/ scleral explants are isolated and incubated in growth-factor-reduced basal membrane extract (BME) (day 0). Medium is changed every other day and choroid sprouting is quantified at day 6. The images of individual choroid explant are taken with an inverted phase microscope and the sprouting area is quantified using a semi-automated macro plug-in to the ImageJ software developed in this lab. This reproducible ex vivo choroidal sprouting assay can be used to assess compounds for potential treatment and for microvascular disease research to assess pathways involved in choroidal micro vessel proliferation using wild type and genetically modified mouse tissue.
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