Lamellar orientation in human cornea in relation to mechanical properties

J Struct Biol. 2005 Jan;149(1):1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2004.08.009.


We have applied wide-angle X-ray scattering to the human cornea in order to quantify the relative number of stromal collagen fibrils directed along the two preferred corneal lamellar directions: superior-inferior and nasal-temporal. The data suggest that, on average, the two directions are populated in equal proportion at the corneal centre. Here, approximately one-third of the fibrils throughout the stromal depth tend to lie within a 45 degrees sector of the superior-inferior meridian, and similarly for the nasal-temporal direction. However, in some eyes we have measured significant differences between the two preferential fibril populations, with some corneas exhibiting as much as 25% more collagen in one direction than the other. Based on these findings, a mechanical model of the normal cornea may be envisaged, whereby the fibril tension in the underlying "background" of isotropically arranged collagen helps to balance the intraocular pressure; while the extra preferentially aligned fibrils take up the additional tensile stress along the superior-inferior and nasal-temporal meridians exerted by the rectus muscles and the orbicularis. It is possible that, through a direct impact on the elastic modulus of the tissue, an imbalance of superior-inferior and nasal-temporal fibrils in some eyes might affect corneal shape.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Collagen / ultrastructure
  • Cornea / anatomy & histology*
  • Cornea / cytology
  • Corneal Stroma / cytology
  • Corneal Stroma / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Mechanics
  • Stromal Cells / ultrastructure
  • X-Ray Diffraction / methods


  • Collagen