Imaging of macrophage-like cells in living human retina using clinical OCT

Maria V. Castanos, Davis B. Zhou, Rachel E. Linderman, Reilly Allison, Tatyana Milman, Joseph Carroll, Justin Migacz, Richard B. Rosen, Toco Y.P. Chui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. To image retinal macrophages at the vitreoretinal interface in the living human retina using a clinical optical coherence tomography (OCT) device. METHODS. Eighteen healthy controls and three patients with retinopathies were imaged using a clinical spectral-domain OCT. In controls, 10 sequential scans were collected at three different locations: (1) ∼9 degrees temporal to the fovea, (2) the macula, and (3) the optic nerve head (ONH). Intervisit repeatability was evaluated by imaging the temporal retina twice on the same day and 3 days later. Only 10 scans at the temporal retina were obtained from each patient. A 3-μm OCT reflectance (OCT-R) slab located above the inner limiting membrane (ILM) surface was averaged. RESULTS. In controls, ramified macrophage-like cells with regular spatial separation were visualized in the temporal and ONH OCT-R images; however, cell structures were not resolvable at the macula. Interim changes in cell position suggestive of cell translocation were observed between images collected on the same day and those collected 3 days later. There was considerable variation in cell density and nearest-neighbor distance (NND) across controls. Mean ± SD cell densities measured at the temporal and ONH were 78 ± 23 cells/mm2 and 57 ± 16 cells/mm2, respectively. Similarly, mean ± SD NNDs measured at the temporal and ONH were 74.3 ± 13.3 μm and 93.3 ± 20.0 μm, respectively. Nonuniform spatial distribution and altered morphology of the cells were identified in patients with retinopathies. CONCLUSIONS. Our findings showed regular spatial separation and ramified morphology of macrophage-like cells on the ILM surface with cell translocation over time in controls. Their distribution and morphology suggest an origin of macrophage-like cells such as microglia or hyalocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Hyalocytes
  • Macrophages
  • Microglia
  • OCT
  • OCT-A


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