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Biophys J. 2011 Jul 6;101(1):33-42. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.05.029.

Quantification of collagen organization in the peripheral human cornea at micron-scale resolution.

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Structural Biophysics Group, School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


The collagen microstructure of the peripheral cornea is important in stabilizing corneal curvature and refractive status. However, the manner in which the predominantly orthogonal collagen fibrils of the central cornea integrate with the circumferential limbal collagen is unknown. We used microfocus wide-angle x-ray scattering to quantify the relative proportion and orientation of collagen fibrils over the human corneolimbal interface at intervals of 50 μm. Orthogonal fibrils changed direction 1-1.5 mm before the limbus to integrate with the circumferential limbal fibrils. Outside the central 6 mm, additional preferentially aligned collagen was found to reinforce the cornea and limbus. The manner of integration and degree of reinforcement varied significantly depending on the direction along which the limbus was approached. We also employed small-angle x-ray scattering to measure the average collagen fibril diameter from central cornea to limbus at 0.5 mm intervals. Fibril diameter was constant across the central 6 mm. More peripherally, fibril diameter increased, indicative of a merging of corneal and scleral collagen. The point of increase varied with direction, consistent with a scheme in which the oblique corneal periphery is reinforced by chords of scleral collagen. The results have implications for the cornea's biomechanical response to ocular surgeries involving peripheral incision.

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