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J Biomech. 2010 Jun 18;43(9):1696-701. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2010.02.031.

Biaxial mechanical testing of human sclera.

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Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, Canada.


The biomechanical environment of the optic nerve head (ONH), of interest in glaucoma, is strongly affected by the biomechanical properties of sclera. However, there is a paucity of information about the variation of scleral mechanical properties within eyes and between individuals. We thus used biaxial testing to measure scleral stiffness in human eyes. Ten eyes from 5 human donors (age 55.4+/-3.5 years; mean+/-SD) were obtained within 24h of death. Square scleral samples (6mm on a side) were cut from each ocular quadrant 3-9 mm from the ONH centre and were mechanically tested using a biaxial extensional tissue tester (BioTester 5000, CellScale Biomaterials Testing, Waterloo). Stress-strain data in the latitudinal (toward the poles) and longitudinal (circumferential) directions, here referred to as directions 1 and 2, were fit to the four-parameter Fung constitutive equation W=c(e(Q)-1), where Q=c(1)E(11)(2)+c(2)E(22)(2)+2c(3)E(11)E(22) and W, c's and E(ij) are the strain energy function, material parameters and Green strains, respectively. Fitted material parameters were compared between samples. The parameter c(3) ranged from 10(-7) to 10(-8), but did not contribute significantly to the accuracy of the fitting and was thus fixed at 10(-7). The products cc(1) and cc(2), measures of stiffness in the 1 and 2 directions, were 2.9+/-2.0 and 2.8+/-1.9 MPa, respectively, and were not significantly different (two-sided t-test; p=0.795). The level of anisotropy (ratio of stiffness in orthogonal directions) was 1.065+/-0.33. No statistically significant correlations between sample thickness and stiffness were found (correlation coefficients=-0.026 and -0.058 in directions 1 and 2, respectively). Human sclera showed heterogeneous, near-isotropic, nonlinear mechanical properties over the scale of our samples.

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