Morphology of the normal human lens

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1996 Jun;37(7):1396-410.


Purpose: To provide a quantitative, morphologic description of differentiated lens fiber cells in all regions of aged normal human lenses.

Methods: Transparent normal human lenses (age range, 44 to 71 years) were examined with correlative transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Vibratome sections allowed examination of internal structures, whereas dissected whole lenses revealed surface characteristics. Additionally, image analysis was used to measure cross-sectional areas of fiber cells.

Results: Approximate regional dimensions (percentage of diameter and thickness, respectively) were determined for whole lenses: cortex 16%, 17%; adult nucleus 24%, 21%; juvenile nucleus 12%, 9%; fetal nucleus 45%, 49%; and embryonic nucleus 3%, 4%. Cortical cells were irregularly hexagonal, and the average cross-sectional area measured 24 +/- 9 microns2. Adult nuclear cells were flattened with intricate membranous interdigitations and an area of 7 +/- 2 microns2. Juvenile nuclear cells had an area of 14 +/- 5 microns2. Fetal nuclear cells were rounded with an area of 35 +/- 22 microns2. Embryonic nuclear cells also were rounded and had a variable area of 80 +/- 68 microns2. Fiber cell cytoplasm in all lens regions appeared smooth in texture and homogeneous in staining density.

Conclusions: Both TEM and SEM are necessary to obtain a complete description of fiber cells. Cross-sections of fibers give new insights into the lamellar organization of the lens, indicating that each region has characteristic cell shapes and sizes. Furthermore, average dimensions were used to demonstrate that the number of cells and approximate growth rates vary significantly between adjacent regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Lens Cortex, Crystalline / ultrastructure
  • Lens Nucleus, Crystalline / ultrastructure
  • Lens, Crystalline / cytology
  • Lens, Crystalline / physiology
  • Lens, Crystalline / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Middle Aged