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Med Hypotheses. 2000 Jul;55(1):36-9.

The tensegrity model applied to the lens: a hypothesis for the presence of the fiber cell ball and sockets.

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Laboratory of Mechanisms of Ocular Disease, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The concept of tensegrity refers to the tensional integrity of a system. Such a system mechanically stabilizes itself by balancing the opposing forces of tension and compression. One category of this model involves a 'pre-stressed' condition in which the structural elements are in a state of tensional compression. The other category includes rigid struts that can sustain the opposing forces. The lens of the eye contains epithelial cells that differentiate at the lens equator to fiber cells. With time, these fiber cells are packed into the center of the lens or the lens nucleus. Part of the process of differentiation is the loss of the cellular nucleus and organelles. During maturation of the lens fiber cells, much of the cytoskeleton is lost as a result of proteolysis. As the lens cells mature, ball and socket joints and interlocking ridges appear on the cellular surface. Applying the tensegrity model to the lens, it appears that the lens cells go from prestressed state of tensional compression to the other state that is defined by rigid connections between cells.

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