Objectives: To study the progressive changes of intense cyclic light-induced retinal degeneration and to determine whether it results in choroidal neovascularization (CNV). Methods: Albino rats were exposed to 12 hours of 3000-lux cyclic light for 1, 3, or 6 months. Fundus examination, fundus photography, fluorescein and indocyanine green angiography, and optical coherence tomography were performed prior to euthanization. Light-exposed animals were euthanized after 1, 3, or 6 months for histopathological evaluation. Retinas were examined for the presence of 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal- and nitrotyrosine-modified proteins by immunofluorescence staining. Results: Long-term intense cyclic light exposure resulted in retinal degeneration with loss of the outer segments of photoreceptors and approximately two-thirds of the outer nuclear layer as well as development of subretinal pigment epithelium neovascularization after 1 month. Almost the entire outer nuclear layer was absent with the presence of CNV, which penetrated the Bruch membrane and extended into the outer retina after 3 months. Absence of the outer nuclear layer, multiple foci of CNV, retinal pigment epithelial fibrous metaplasia, and connective tissue bands containing blood vessels extending into the retina were observed after 6 months. All intense light-exposed animals showed an increased presence of 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal and nitrotyrosine staining. Optical coherence tomographic and angiographic studies confirmed retinal thinning and leakiness of the newly formed blood vessels. Conclusions: Our results suggest that albino rats develop progressive stages of retinal degeneration and CNV after long-term intense cyclic light exposure, allowing the detailed study of the pathogenesis and treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Clinical Relevance: The ability to study the progressive pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration and CNV will provide detailed knowledge about the disease and aid in the development of target-specific therapy.
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