Purpose: The structure and biomechanics of the sclera and cornea are central to several eye diseases such as glaucoma and myopia. However, their roles remain unclear, partly because of limited noninvasive techniques to assess their fibrous microstructures globally, longitudinally, and quantitatively. We hypothesized that magic angle-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can reveal the structural details of the corneoscleral shell and their changes upon intraocular pressure (IOP) elevation.
Methods: Seven ovine eyes were extracted and fixed at IOP = 50 mm Hg to mimic ocular hypertension, and another 11 eyes were unpressurized. The sclera and cornea were scanned at different angular orientations relative to the main magnetic field inside a 9.4-Tesla MRI scanner. Relative MRI signal intensities and intrinsic transverse relaxation times (T2 and T2*) were determined to quantify the magic angle effect on the corneoscleral shells. Three loaded and eight unloaded tendon samples were scanned as controls.
Results: At magic angle, high-resolution MRI revealed distinct scleral and corneal lamellar fibers, and light/dark bands indicative of collagen fiber crimps in the sclera and tendon. Magic angle enhancement effect was the strongest in tendon and the least strong in cornea. Loaded sclera, cornea, and tendon possessed significantly higher T2 and T2* than unloaded tissues at magic angle.
Conclusions: Magic angle-enhanced MRI can detect ocular fibrous microstructures without contrast agents or coatings and can reveal their MR tissue property changes with IOP loading. This technique may open up new avenues for assessment of the biomechanical and biochemical properties of ocular tissues in aging and in diseases involving the corneoscleral shell.
Keywords: cornea; magic angle effect; magnetic resonance imaging; ocular hypertension; sclera.
Copyright 2014 The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Inc.