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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1997 Jan;38(1):121-9.

Collagen fibril orientation in the human corneal stroma and its implication in keratoconus.

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  • 1Universit├Ątsklinik f├╝r Augenheilkunde, Innsbruck, Austria.



The kind and the degree of preferred collagen fibril orientation in normal human corneal stroma were investigated as important qualities of the cornea with respect to its mechanical properties and, hence, to refractive surgery. To determine whether this information is relevant to corneal disease, the authors investigated collagen fibril orientation in several corneas with keratoconus.


By means of low-angle x-ray scattering, 17 normal human corneas and four corneas of eyes with keratoconus were investigated.


Collagen fibrils in the normal human corneal stroma showed two preferred orientations orthogonal to each other. These were the horizontal and the vertical directions. The authors defined a degree of orientation gamma, determined to be gamma = 0.49 +/- 0.10 (mean +/- SD). This means that the excess of the preferentially oriented fibrils in relation to the total number of fibrils was approximately 49%. It follows from this value that approximately two thirds of the fibrils (66%) were within in a 45 degrees sector (+/-22.5 degrees) around the horizontal and vertical meridians, whereas approximately one third (34%) is oriented in the oblique sectors in between. No statistically significant variation of gamma within a central 7 mm zone could be detected in normal corneas. The orthogonal arrangement of the collagen fibrils was, however, profoundly altered in keratoconus, in which nonorthogonal orientations were found inside the apical scar.


The normal human corneal stroma shows a considerable degree of structural anisotropy. It is characterized by two preferred collagen fibril orientations orthogonal to each other. Alteration of the regular orthogonal arrangement of the fibrils in keratoconus may be related to the biomechanical instability of the tissue.

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