Tensile mechanical and creep properties of Descemet's membrane and lens capsule

Exp Eye Res. 2004 Sep;79(3):343-50. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2004.05.014.


Descemet's membrane (DM) and the lens capsule (LC) are two ocular basement membrane structures which in comparison with other basement membranes have exceptional thicknesses which increase with age. Both membranes are supposed to contain networks of type IV collagen and laminin linked together with nidogen/entactin and containing other glycoproteins and proteoglycans. DM is a unique basement membrane which in addition contains fine filaments of type VIII collagen arranged in a hexagonal lattice. The mechanical functions of the LC are in lens suspension and accommodation, and its mechanical properties, previously investigated, are of great interest from a surgical point of view. DM serves as an endothelial basement membrane. Otherwise, its physiological function is unknown but may be one of mechanical support, filtration, or fluid barrier. Data on the mechanical properties of DM or the supramolecular assembly of type VIII collagen are very scarce or absent. The aim of this study was to determine and compare the mechanical properties of the two ocular membranes in order to elucidate the properties of DM in the light of those of LC. The human eyes were from testamentary donors and rat, cow, and sow eyes were obtained from normal animals. The tensile mechanical properties were determined by a volume-strain procedure and creep properties by subjecting the membranes from the latter three species to a constant axial stress. In rat, cow, and sow, DM was less strained to obtain a fixed moderate stress value (0.5 MPa) and showed to be 3.4- to 5.2-fold stiffer and to attain 2.7- to 4.6-fold higher stress at a strain value of 0.10 when compared with LC. The maximal strain, stiffness and stress were found to be less than those of the LC. In humans, DM and LC showed very similar mechanical properties. The instantaneous creep of DM was found to be less than that of LC indicating a higher stiffness of DM in the axial direction. In conclusion, depending on the species, DM showed to possess from one-fourth to similar mechanical strength as that of LC, and, in rat, cow, and sow, DM appeared to be stiffer in both lateral and axial directions at moderate strain values when compared with LC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cattle
  • Descemet Membrane / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lens Capsule, Crystalline / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Swine
  • Tensile Strength