The choroid as a sclera growth regulator☆

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Abstract

Emmetropization is a vision dependent mechanism that attempts to minimize refractive error through coordinated growth of the cornea, lens and sclera such that the axial length matches the focal length of the eye. It is generally accepted that this visually guided eye growth is controlled via a cascade of locally generated chemical events that are initiated in the retina and ultimately cause changes in scleral extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling which lead to changes in eye size and refraction. Of much interest, therefore, are the molecular mechanisms that underpin emmetropization and visually guided ocular growth. The choroid, a highly vascularized layer located between the retina and the sclera is uniquely situated to relay retina-derived signals to the sclera to effect changes in ECM synthesis and ocular size. Studies initiated by Josh Wallman clearly demonstrate that the choroid plays an active role in emmetropization, both by modulation of its thickness to adjust the retina to the focal plane of the eye (choroidal accommodation), and well as through the release of growth factors that have the potential to regulate scleral extracellular matrix remodeling. His discoveries prompted numerous investigations on the molecular composition of the choroid and changes in gene expression associated with visually guided ocular growth. This article will review molecular and functional studies of the choroid to provide support for the hypothesis that the choroid is a source of sclera growth regulators that effect changes in ocular growth in response to visual stimuli.

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