Age Related Changes in the Human Retina

Carlo Cavallotti and Nicola Pescosolido

An increasing number of elderly give a good cause for investigations on age-related changes in the human retina. Samples of fresh retinal tissue obtained from young and old humans were studied by means of traditional histological methods and by scanning electron microscopy. Particular attention was paid to morpho-metrical data. In fact, with the aid of the quantitative analysis of images, a large amount of morphometrical data were collected. Moreover, the amount of protein content in retinal tissues was determined. Particular care was taken in order to clarify the changes occurring in the human retina with aging. Retinal thickness significantly decreases with age. The ganglion cells seem to be more vulnerable to age-related loss than other retinal cells. The number of retinal capillaries was diminished with age. The intercellular connections between photorecep-tors, the number of cellular processes, and the number of synaptic bodies of the bipolar cells also decreased significantly with age. Biochemical dosage of proteins demonstrates that the amount of proteins in retinal tissues decrease with age. In conclusion, all morphological, morphometrical, ultra-structural, and biochemical data agree in demonstrating that the human retina undergoes specific changes with age. Scanning electron microscopy performed on human retina in young and old subjects confirms the age-related changes of photo-receptor cells as well as of bipolar and ganglion cells, andprovides new morphometricalfindings. These results can be considered as a model and as normal values for other changes that may occur in the human retina in pathological conditions.

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