Age-Related Differences in Ocular Features of a Naturalistic Free-Ranging Population of Rhesus Macaques

Arthur G. Fernandes, Palaiologos Alexopoulos, Armando Burgos-Rodriguez, Melween I. Martinez, Mark Ghassibi, Ilya Leskov, Lauren J.N. Brent, Noah Snyder-Mackler, John Danias, Gadi Wollstein, James P. Higham, Amanda D. Melin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    PURPOSE. Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are the premier nonhuman primate model for studying human health and disease. We investigated if age was associated with clinically relevant ocular features in a large cohort of free-ranging rhesus macaques from Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. METHODS. We evaluated 120 rhesus macaques (73 males, 47 females) from 0 to 29 years old (mean } SD: 12.6 } 6.4) from September to December 2021. The ophthalmic evaluation included intraocular pressure (IOP) assessment, corneal pachymetry, biomicroscopy, A-scan biometry, automated refraction, and fundus photography after pupil dilation. The associations of age with the outcomes were investigated through multilevel mixed-effects models adjusted for sex and weight. RESULTS. On average, IOP, pachymetry, axial length, and automated refraction spherical equivalent were 18.37 } 4.68 mmHg, 474.43 } 32.21 μm, 19.49 } 1.24 mm, and 0.30 } 1.70 diopters (D), respectively. Age was significantly associated with pachymetry (β coefficient = -1.20; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.27 to -0.14; P = 0.026), axial length (β coefficient = 0.03; 95% CI, 0.01 to 0.05; P = 0.002), and spherical equivalent (β coefficient = -0.12; 95% CI, -0.22 to -0.02; P = 0.015). No association was detected between age and IOP. The prevalence of cataracts in either eye was 10.83% (95% CI, 6.34-17.89) and was significantly associated with age (odds ratio [OR] = 1.20; 95% CI, 1.06-1.36; P = 0.004). Retinal drusen in either eye was observed in 15.00% (95% CI, 9.60-22.68) of animals, which was also significantly associated with age (OR = 1.14; 95% CI, 1.02-1.27; P = 0.020). CONCLUSIONS. Rhesus macaques exhibit age-related ocular associations similar to those observed in human aging, including decreased corneal thickness, increased axial length, myopic shift, and higher prevalence of cataract and retinal drusen.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number64(7):3
    JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
    Issue number7
    StatePublished - Jun 2023


    • aging
    • animal models
    • nonhuman primate
    • rhesus macaque

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sensory Systems
    • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
    • Ophthalmology


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