Scaling and maintenance of corneal thickness during aging

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 6;12(10):e0185694. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185694. eCollection 2017.

Abstract

Corneal thickness is tightly regulated by its boundary endothelial and epithelial layers. The regulated set-point of corneal thickness likely shows inter-individual variations, changes by age, and response to stress. Using anterior segment-optical coherence tomography, we measure murine central corneal thickness and report on body size scaling of murine central corneal thickness during aging. For aged-matched mice, we find that corneal thickness depends on sex and strain. To shed mechanistic insights into these anatomical changes, we measure epithelial layer integrity and endothelial cell density during the life span of the mice using corneal fluorescein staining and in vivo confocal microscopy, respectively and compare their trends with that of the corneal thickness. Cornea thickness increases initially (1 month: 114.7 ± 3.0 μm, 6 months: 126.3 ± 1.6 μm), reaches a maximum (9 months: 129.3 ± 4.4 μm) and then reduces (12 months: 127 ± 2.9 μm, 13 months: 119.5 ± 7.6 μm, 14 months: 110.6 ± 10.6 μm), while the body size (weight) increases with age. We find that endothelial cell density reduces from 2 months old to 8 months old as the mice age and epithelial layer accumulates damages within this time frame. Finally, we compare murine corneal thickness with those of several other mammals including humans and show that corneal thickness has an allometric scaling with body size. Our results have relevance for organ size regulation, translational pharmacology, and veterinary medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Cornea / diagnostic imaging*
  • Epithelium, Corneal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Species Specificity
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods