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Free Content Cyclosporine treatment of RPE allografts in the rabbit subretinal space

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To determine the effects of systemic cyclosporine A (CsA) on the survival of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) allografts in the subretinal space in an animal model using atraumatic transplantation surgery.


Following pars plana vitrectomy, an RPE cell suspension from brown rabbits was injected with a glass micropipette into the subretinal space of 39 albino rabbits. For immunosuppression, 22 rabbits were given an injection of CsA, 20 mg daily intramuscularly, 17 rabbits with RPE grafts were controls. The grafts were monitored by biomicroscopy, color fundus photography, and fluorescein angiography. Rabbits were sacrificed at 1, 3 and 6 months, respectively, and the eyes processed for light and electron microscopy including immunohistochemistry.


After three months, the transplanted RPE cells, in both the CsA group and the controls, formed a monolayer in the subretinal space. Although a few macrophages were encountered, there was no massive cellular infiltration and the photoreceptor layer was well preserved. After six months, however, there was a disruption of grafted RPE cells in both groups, characterized by dispersion of melanin pigment in the subretinal space, and invasion of macrophages with focal photoreceptor damage but no infiltration of lymphocytes in the retina or choroid. No significant differences between the CsA treated and the control eyes were discernible.


Although the subretinal space has been considered an immunologically privileged site, we found that the survival of RPE allografts was limited. CsA did not prevent RPE allograft destruction in the subretinal space. The transplant seems to be disrupted either by immunological mechanisms that are not inhibited by CsA, or by nonimmunologic events.

Keywords: RPE transplantation; allograft; cyclosporine A; graft disruption; graft survival; macrophages; melanin pigment; photoreceptor damage; retina; subretinal space

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Ophthalmology, Örebro Medical Center, Örebro, University of Linköping 2: , Linköping, Karolinska Institutet, St Erik's Eye Hospital 3: , Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: 2000-04-01

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