Retinopathy in monkeys with spontaneous type 2 diabetes

Sahng Y. Kim, Mary A. Johnson, D. Scott McLeod, Theresa Alexander, Tsuyoshi Otsuji, Scott M. Steidl, Barbara C. Hansen, Gerard A. Lutty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE. Type 2 diabetes occurs spontaneously in rhesus monkeys and shows an extraordinary similarity to human diabetes in clinical features and relative time course. The purpose of this study was to investigate clinically and histopathologically the ocular changes in these monkeys. METHODS. Ophthalmoscopic examinations were performed on aged normal and diabetic monkeys. Retinas from 16 diabetic monkeys and 6 nondiabetic monkeys were incubated postmortem for adenosine diphosphatase (ADPase) activity (labels viable retinal blood vessels) and flat-embedded in JB-4. Tissue sections were cut through areas of interest. RESULTS. Cotton-wool spots, intraretinal hemorrhages, and hard exudates in the macula were observed by ophthalmoscopy in some diabetic monkeys. Dot/blot hemorrhages, cotton-wool spots, and small nonperfused areas were the earliest histologically documented changes in the retinas. Large nonperfused areas extending from optic disc to midfovea were observed in four diabetic monkeys. Formation of small intraretinal microvascular abnormalities (IRMAs) and microaneurysms were associated with the areas of nonperfusion. There were apparent fluid-filled spaces in the outer plexiform layer in three of these maculas, suggesting macular edema. There was a significant correlation between the occurrence of retinopathy and hypertension (P = 0.037 for systolic pressure; P = 0.019 for diastolic pressure). In elastase-digested retinas, the ratio of pericytes to endothelial cells was 0.66:1 in diabetic and 0.64:1 in nondiabetic (P = 0.75) retinas. CONCLUSIONS. This is the first detailed analysis of retinopathy in a colony of spontaneous type 2 diabetic monkeys. Monkeys with type 2 diabetes have many of the angiopathic changes associated with human diabetic retinopathy. Hypertension correlates with the severity of the diabetic retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4543-4553
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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