Hyperspectral autofluorescence characterization of drusen and sub-RPE deposits in age-related macular degeneration

Yuehong Tong, Thomas Ach, Christine A. Curcio, R. Theodore Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Soft drusen and basal linear deposit (BLinD) are two forms of the same extracellular lipid rich material that together make up an Oil Spill on Bruch's membrane (BrM). Drusen are focal and can be recognized clinically. In contrast BLinD is thin and diffusely distributed, and invisible clinically, even on highest resolution OCT, but has been detected on en face hyperspectral autofluorescence (AF) imaging ex vivo. We sought to optimize histologic hyperspectral AF imaging and image analysis for recognition of drusen and sub-RPE deposits (including BLinD and basal laminar deposit), for potential clinical application. Methods: Twenty locations specifically with drusen and 12 additional locations specifically from fovea, perifovea and mid-periphery from RPE/BrM flatmounts from 4 AMD donors underwent hyperspectral AF imaging with 4 excitation wavelengths (λex 436, 450, 480 and 505 nm), and the resulting image cubes were simultaneously decomposed with our published non-negative matrix factorization (NMF). Rank 4 recovery of 4 emission spectra was chosen for each excitation wavelength. Results: A composite emission spectrum, sensitive and specific for drusen and presumed sub-RPE deposits (the SDr spectrum) was recovered with peak at 510-520 nm in all tissues with drusen, with greatest amplitudes at excitations λex 436, 450 and 480 nm. The RPE spectra of combined sources Lipofuscin (LF)/ Melanolipofuscin (MLF) were of comparable amplitude and consistently recapitulated the spectra S1, S2 and S3 previously reported from all tissues: tissues with drusen, foveal and extra-foveal locations. Conclusions: A clinical hyperspectral AF camera, with properly chosen excitation wavelengths in the blue range and a hyperspectral AF detector, should be capable of detecting and quantifying drusen and sub-RPE deposits, the earliest known lesions of AMD, before any other currently available imaging modality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalAnnals of Eye Science
Issue numberMarch
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Drusen
  • Hyperspectral autofluorescence (AF)
  • Sub-RPE deposits


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