Light and electron microscopy of drusen formation in the human eye showed yellow-white spots in the fundus with two morphologic patterns: that of typical drusen and a nodular accumulation of cellular components beneath the retinal pigment epithelial cells. By electron microscopy, the progression of drusen formation could be classified into four stages. Stage I showed budding or evagination of retinal pigment epithelial cells into the subpigment epithelial space. This evaginated portion was connected to the retinal pigment epithelial cell cytoplasm and was surrounded by its basement membrane. In Stage II the evaginated portion of the cell was completely separate from the cytoplasm of its parent retinal pigment epithelial cell. In Stage III, the evaginated portion showed degeneration and disintegration. Finally, in Stage IV, an accumulation of vesicular, granular, tubular, and linear material was seen free within the nodular space beneath the retinal pigment epithelial cell.
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