Crimp around the globe; patterns of collagen crimp across the corneoscleral shell

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Our goal was to systematically quantify the collagen crimp morphology around the corneoscleral shell, and test the hypothesis that collagen crimp is not uniform over the globe. Axial longitudinal cryosections (30μm) of three sheep eyes, fixed at 0mmHg IOP, were imaged using polarized light microscopy to quantify the local collagen in 8 regions: two corneal (central and peripheral) and six scleral (limbus, anterior-equatorial, equatorial, posterior-equatorial, posterior and peripapillary). Collagen crimp period (length of one wave), tortuosity (path length divided by end-to-end length), waviness (SD of orientation), amplitude (half the peak to trough distance), and conformity (width of contiguous similarly oriented bundles) were measured in each region. Measurements were obtained on 8216 collagen fiber bundles. When pooling measurements across the whole eye globe, the median crimp values were: 23.9μm period, 13.2μm conformity, 0.63μm amplitude, 1.006 tortuosity, and 12.7° waviness. However, all parameters varied significantly across the globe. Median bundle periods in the central cornea, limbus, and peripapillary sclera (PPS) were 14.1μm, 29.5μm, and 22.9μm, respectively. Median conformities were 20.8μm, 14.5μm, and 15.1μm, respectively. Median tortuosities were 1.005, 1.007, and 1.007, respectively. Median waviness' were 11.4°, 13.2°, and 13.2°, respectively. Median amplitudes were 0.35μm, 0.87μm, and 0.65μm, respectively. All parameters varied significantly across the globe. All regions differed significantly from one another on at least one parameter. Regions with small periods had large conformities, and bundles with high tortuosity had high waviness and amplitude. Waviness, tortuosity, and amplitude, associated with nonlinear biomechanical behavior, exhibited “double hump” distributions, whereas period and conformity, representing tissue organization, were substantially different between sclera and cornea. Though the biomechanical implications and origin of the patterns observed remain unclear, our findings of well-defined patterns of collagen crimp across the corneoscleral shell, consistent between eyes, support the existence of mechanisms that regulate collagen characteristics at the regional or smaller levels. These results are experimental data necessary for more realistic models of ocular biomechanics and remodeling.

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