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Microsurgical Dissection and Tissue Clearing for High Resolution Intact Whole Retina and Vitreous Imaging

Hossein Nazari1,2, Maxim Ivannikov2, Lorenzo Ochoa2,3, Gracie Vargas2,3, Massoud Motamedi3,4

Abstract

Neuronal and vascular structures of the retina in physiologic and pathologic conditions can be better visualized and characterized by using intact whole retina imaging techniques compared to conventional retinal flat mount preparations and sections. However, immunofluorescent imaging of intact whole retina is hindered by the opaque coatings of the eyeball, i.e., sclera, choroid, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the light scattering properties of retinal layers that prevent full thickness high resolution optical imaging. Chemical bleaching of the pigmented layers and tissue clearing protocols have been described to address these obstacles; however, currently described methods are not suitable for imaging endogenous fluorescent molecules such as green fluorescent protein (GFP) in intact whole retina. Other approaches bypassed this limitation by surgical removal of pigmented layers and the anterior segment of the eyeball allowing intact eye imaging, though the peripheral retina and hyaloid structures were disrupted. Presented here is an intact whole retina and vitreous immunofluorescent imaging protocol that combines surgical dissection of the sclera/choroid/retina pigment epithelium (RPE) layers with a modified tissue clearing method and light sheet fluorescent microscopy (LSFM). The new approach offers an unprecedented view of unperturbed vascular and neuronal elements of the retina as well as the vitreous and hyaloid vascular system in pathologic conditions.

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