Purpose: The mouse eye has potential to become an important model for studies on the genetic control of eye growth and myopia. However, no data are published on the development of its optical properties. We developed a paraxial schematic model of the growing eye for the most common laboratory mouse strain, the C57BL/6 mouse, for the age range between 22 and 100 days.
Methods: Refractive development was followed with eccentric infrared photorefraction and corneal curvature with infrared photokeratometry. To measure ocular dimensions, freshly excised eyes were immediately frozen after enucleation to minimize distortions. Eyes were cut with a cryostat down to the bisecting horizontal plane, until the optic nerve head became visible. The standard deviations were +/-10 microm for repeated measurements in highly magnified videographs, taken in several section planes close to the equator in the same eyes. To evaluate inter-eye and inter-individual variability, a total of 20 mice (34 eyes) were studied, with 3-4 eyes for each of the 9 sampling ages. Schematic eye models were developed using paraxial ray tracing software (OSLO, LT Lambda Research Corporation, and a self-written program).
Results: The measured refractive errors were initially +4.0+/-0.6 D at approximately 30 days, and levelled off with +7.0+/-2.5 D at about 70 days. Corneal radius of curvature did not change with age (1.414+/-0.019 mm). Both axial lens diameter and axial eye length grew linearly (regression equations: lens, 1619 microm +5.5 microm/day, R=0.916; axial length, 2899 microm +4.4 microm/day, R=0.936). The lens grew so fast that vitreous chamber depth declined with age (regression equation: 896 microm -3.2 microm/day, R=0.685). The radii of curvature of the anterior lens surface increased during development (from 0.982 mm at day 22 to 1.208 mm at day 100), whereas the radii of the posterior lens surface remained constant (-1.081+/-0.054 mm). The calculated homogeneous lens index increased linearly with age (from 1.568 to 1.605). The small eye artifact, calculated from the dioptric difference of the positions of the vitreo-retinal interface and the photoreceptor plane, increased from +35.2 to +39.1 D, which was much higher than the hyperopia measured with photorefraction. Retinal image magnification increased from 31 to 34 microm/deg, and the f/number remained < or =1 at all ages, suggesting a bright retinal image. A calculated axial eye elongation of 5.4-6.5 microm was sufficient to make the schematic eye 1 D more myopic.
Conclusions: The most striking features of the mouse eye were that linear growth was slow but extended far beyond sexual maturity, that the corneal curvature did not increase, and that the prominent lens growth caused a developmental decline of the vitreous chamber depth.