Normal light scattering in the eye is determined primarily by the size of α-crystalline molecules. Ageing effects appear as an increase in normal lens light scattering in distinct layers. Subliminal effects of toxins on lens transparency can also cause an increase in light scattering due to protein molecule aggregation before visible opacities appear. Scheimpflug photography of the anterior eye segment with subsequent densitometric image analysis is the method of choice to evaluate such effects. To gain more insight into normal ageing and the potential effects of complex aerosols, a subset of Wistar rats (both sexes) belonging to a larger chronic inhalation toxicity study was documented at baseline and after 2 years with a Topcon SL-45 Scheimpflug camera on Kodak Tmax 400 ISO film. The recording procedure, film development, and microdensitometric image analysis were all performed according to standard protocol. A second group from the same study was documented at the start and after 5 months of a 6-month posttreatment period immediately following the inhalation period. Rats were nose-only exposed for 6 h/day, 7 days/week, for 2 years to low (3 µg/l) or high (10 µg/l) concentrations of room-aged cigarette sidestream smoke or diesel engine exhaust. Control animals were exposed to filtered fresh air. At the baseline examination, there were no relevant differences between groups with respect to corneal density or density of defined layers in the lens capsule (1), epithelium and superficial cortex (2), deep cortex (3), supranuclear layer (4) and nucleus (5). At the 2-year examination, mean corneal density was significantly lower in females than in males. This same trend, although not significant, was also found in most layers of the lens. The most prominent differences in density over time were measured in lens layers 3 and 4, but neither corneal density nor lenticular density showed any consistent treatment-related effects in any of the layers. The data from the posttreatment period confirmed the results of the 2-year study. The depth of the anterior chamber increased constantly over the 2.5-year period, but again, treatment did not affect this. This study provided completely new data on age-related light scattering in the cornea and in defined layers of the lens in long-term toxicity studies in Wistar rats.

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