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Curr Eye Res. 2006 Jun;31(6):501-9.

Comparative anatomy of laboratory animal corneas with a new-generation high-resolution in vivo confocal microscope.

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Department of Ophthalmology III, Quinze-Vingts National Ophthalmology Hospital, Paris, France.



The aim of the current study was to compare the corneas of three commonly used laboratory animals with a new in vivo confocal microscope.


Six eyes of three adult male New Zealand albino rabbits, six eyes of three adult male Lewis rats, and six eyes of three adult male Swiss mice were used in this study. Corneas were analyzed in vivo using the Rostock Cornea Module of the Heidelberg Retina Tomograph (HRT)-II. For all eyes, 20 confocal microscopic images of each layer, that is, the superficial and basal corneal epithelia, the Bowman layer, the anterior and posterior stroma, and the endothelium, were recorded. The images were then analyzed qualitatively and compared among animals. Cellular densities of anterior and posterior stroma keratocytes of rabbits and endothelium density of the three different animals were also measured and compared.


The Rostock Cornea Module of the HRT II was successfully used to analyze all corneal layers of these three commonly used laboratory animals. Although the cellular patterns of the corneal layers of these three animals, as observed with in vivo confocal microscopy, were quite similar, some differences were seen in terms of endothelial cell density and stroma appearance. Superficial cells were seen as hyper- and hyporeflective polygonal cells. Basal cells had dark cytoplasm without visible nuclei and were closely organized. A Bowman layer was observed in all three animals as an amorphous tissue containing fine subepithelial nerve plexus. In rabbits, the stroma consisted of an amorphous ground substance with hyper-reflective structures corresponding with keratocyte nuclei. In rats and mice, numerous reflective stellate structures with no clearly visible nuclei were observed within the stroma. Besides endothelial cell density, the endothelium was similar among the three animals and was seen as hyper-reflective cells with dark limits organized in a honeycomb pattern.


The Rostock Cornea Module of the HRT II can provide high-resolution images of all corneal layers of rabbits, rats, and mice without sacrificing animals or preparing tissue. This new device may be useful for evaluating the cornea during experimental animal studies.

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