Clinicopathologic Findings in Three Siblings With Geographic Atrophy

Malia M. Edwards, D. Scott McLeod, Mengxi Shen, Rhonda Grebe, Janet S. Sunness, Imran A. Bhutto, Erin McDonnell, Alexandra M. Pado, Giovanni Gregori, Philip J. Rosenfeld, Gerard Anthony Lutty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness among the elderly worldwide. Clinical imaging and histopathologic studies are crucial to understanding disease pathology. This study combined clinical observations of three brothers with geographic atrophy (GA), followed for 20 years, with histopathologic analysis. METHODS. For two of the three brothers, clinical images were taken in 2016, 2 years prior to death. Immunohistochemistry, on both flat-mounts and cross sections, histology, and transmission electron microscopy were used to compare the choroid and retina in GA eyes to those of age-matched controls. RESULTS. Ulex europaeus agglutinin (UEA) lectin staining of the choroid demonstrated a significant reduction in the percent vascular area and vessel diameter. In one donor, histopathologic analysis demonstrated two separate areas with choroidal neovascularization (CNV). Reevaluation of swept-source optical coherence tomography angiography (SS-OCTA) images revealed CNV in two of the brothers. UEA lectin also revealed a significant reduction in retinal vasculature in the atrophic area. A subretinal glial membrane, composed of processes positive for glial fibrillary acidic protein and/or vimentin, occupied areas identical to those of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and choroidal atrophy in all three AMD donors. SS-OCTA also demonstrated presumed calcific drusen in the two donors imaged in 2016. Immunohistochemical analysis and alizarin red S staining verified calcium within drusen, which was ensheathed by glial processes. CONCLUSIONS. This study demonstrates the importance of clinicohistopathologic correlation studies. It emphasizes the need to better understand how the symbiotic relationship between choriocapillaris and RPE, glial response, and calcified drusen impact GA progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • age-related macular degeneration
  • calcified drusen
  • choroid
  • geographic atrophy
  • Müller cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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