A group of 160 Wistar rats (both sexes) from a larger chronic inhalation toxicity study was monitored at baseline and after 1 and 2 years with a photo-slitlamp microscope and a direct ophthalmoscope to record spontaneous age-related eye lesions and treatment-related eye lesions over a period of 24 months. A second group from the same study was monitored 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) total particulate matter concentrations of room-aged cigarette sidestream smoke (RASS) or diesel engine exhaust (DEE). Control animals were exposed to filtered fresh air. All ophthalmological examinations were performed in mydriasis, and relevant observations were documented on color slide film. At baseline, all animals with eye lesions were excluded from the study. After 1 year, only minor lesions were found: retrolental opacities (14%) and a few cases of corneal dryness with reddish lid margins. After 2 years, 23% of the animals had unilateral or bilateral retrolental opacities, but the most frequent eye lesions were posterior subcapsular cataracts (PSC, 32%). Water clefts and spokes were found in 11% of the lenses and mature cataracts in 6%. All other eye lesions observed were much less frequent. There were a few cases of glaucoma, corneal dryness and stromal neovascularization. The frequency and type of lesion in animals monitored from the start of the posttreatment period was comparable to what was seen after 2 years. Toward the end of this period the frequency of mature cataracts went up to 9% and that of (secondary) glaucomas to 5%. None of the eye lesions observed showed any association in frequency or severity of expression to the treatment, either RASS or DEE, or to the sex of the animals. In comparison to the (limited) literature data available, far fewer corneal lesions were found in this study, but PSCs and mature cataracts were more frequent. Strain differences may influence these parameters. This study provided valuable information on the nature and frequency of spontaneous age-related eye lesions (0–56%, depending on the tissue) in long-term toxicity studies in Wistar rats.

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