Morphometric analysis of fibre cell growth in the developing chicken lens

Exp Eye Res. 2003 Mar;76(3):291-302. doi: 10.1016/s0014-4835(02)00315-9.


The optical characteristics of any lens are determined by its internal composition, size and shape. In the lens of the eye, the macroscopic form of the tissue reflects the arrangement and behaviour of its component cells. In the current study, we quantified changes in the morphology and organization of chicken lens fibre cells during embryonic development. Lens radii, fibre cell length, shape, cross-sectional aspect ratio, cross-sectional area, cross-sectional perimeter, and cell packing organization were measured from confocal and transmission electron micrographs using computer assisted image analysis. Derived values for cell surface area and volume were also calculated. Because of the radial symmetry of the avian lens, we were able to employ a novel coordinate system to track the fate of identified cohorts of cells at successive developmental stages. This allowed kinetic information, such as the rate of increase in length or volume, to be derived. By sampling identified cell populations (i.e. those located at a specific point on the lens radius) at regular intervals it was possible, for the first time, to reconstruct the life history of fibre cells buried within the cellular conglomerate of the lens. The measurements indicated that a surprising degree of structural remodeling occurs during fibre cell elongation and continues after extant cells have been buried by waves of newly differentiated fibres. Even in the anucleated cells of the lens core, the size and surface topology of the cells were altered continually during development. However, some aspects of fibre cell organization were established early in development and did not vary thereafter. For example, the packing arrangement of cells in the adult lens was traced to a cellular template established on the tenth day of embryonic development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Lens, Crystalline / embryology*
  • Lens, Crystalline / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Morphogenesis