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J Mod Opt. 2011;58(19-20):1781-1787. Epub 2011 Nov 24.

Age-dependent variation of the Gradient Index profile in human crystalline lenses.

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Instituto de Óptica "Daza de Valdés, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, C/ Serrano, 121, Madrid, 28006, Spain.



To reconstruct the gradient index (GRIN) profile of human crystalline lenses ex-vivo using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) imaging with an optimization technique and to study the dependence of the GRIN profile with age.


Cross-sectional images of nine isolated human crystalline lenses with ages ranging from 6 to 72 (post mortem time 1 to 4 days) were obtained using a custom-made OCT system. Lenses were extracted from whole cadaver globes and placed in a measurement chamber filled with preservation medium (DMEM). Lenses were imaged with the anterior surface up and then flipped over and imaged again, to obtain posterior lens surface profiles both undistorted and distorted by the refraction through the anterior crystalline lens and GRIN. The GRIN distribution of the lens was described with three variables by means of power function, with variables being the nucleus and surface index, and a power coefficient that describes the decay of the refractive index from the nucleus to the surface. An optimization method was used to search for the parameters that produced the best match of the distorted posterior surface.


The distorted surface was simulated with accuracy around the resolution of the OCT system (under 15 µm). The reconstructed refractive index values ranged from 1.356 to 1.388 for the surface, and from 1.396 to 1.434 for the nucleus. The power coefficient ranged between 3 and 18. The power coefficient increased significantly with age, at a rate of 0.24 per year.


Optical Coherence Tomography allowed optical, non-invasive measurement of the 2-D gradient index profile of the isolated human crystalline lens ex vivo. The age-dependent variation of the changes is consistent with previous data using magnetic resonance imaging, and the progressive formation of a refractive index plateau.

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