Retinal microvascular network alterations: Potential biomarkers of cerebrovascular and neural diseases

Delia Cabrera DeBuc, Gabor Mark Somfai, Akos Koller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Increasing evidence suggests that the conditions of retinal microvessels are indicators to a variety of cerebrovascular, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, and developmental diseases. Thus noninvasive visualization of the human retinal microcirculation offers an exceptional opportunity for the investigation of not only the retinal but also cerebral microvasculature. In this review, we show how the conditions of the retinal microvessels could be used to assess the conditions of brain microvessels because the microvascular network of the retina and brain share, in many aspects, standard features in development, morphology, function, and pathophysiology. Recent techniques and imaging modalities, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), allow more precise visualization of various layers of the retina and its microcirculation, providing a “microscope” to brain microvessels. We also review the potential role of retinal microvessels in the risk identification of cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. The association between vision problems and cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as the possible role of retinal microvascular imaging biomarkers in cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative screening, their potentials, and limitations, are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H201-H212
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Brain
  • Cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative disorders
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Optical imaging
  • Retinal imaging biomarkers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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