Compliance profile of the human cornea as measured by atomic force microscopy

Julie A. Last, Sara M Thomasy, Christopher R. Croasdale, Paul Russell, Christopher J Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The ability to accurately determine the elastic modulus of each layer of the human cornea is a crucial step in the design of better corneal prosthetics. In addition, knowledge of the elastic modulus will allow design of substrates with relevant mechanical properties for in vitro investigations of cellular behavior. Previously, we have reported elastic modulus values for the anterior basement membrane and Descemet's membrane of the human cornea, the surfaces in contact with the epithelial and endothelial cells, respectively. We have completed the compliance profile of the stromal elements of the human cornea by obtaining elastic modulus values for Bowman's layer and the anterior stroma. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to determine the elastic modulus, which is a measure of the tissue stiffness and is inversely proportional to the compliance. The elastic response of the tissue allows analysis with the Hertz equation, a model that provides a relationship between the indentation force and depth and is a function of the tip radius and the modulus of the substrate. The elastic modulus values for each layer of the cornea are: 7.5 ± 4.2. kPa (anterior basement membrane), 109.8 ± 13.2. kPa (Bowman's layer), 33.1 ± 6.1. kPa (anterior stroma), and 50 ± 17.8. kPa (Descemet's membrane). These results indicate that the biophysical properties, including elastic modulus, of each layer of the human cornea are unique and may play a role in the maintenance of homeostasis as well as in the response to therapeutic agents and disease states. The data will also inform the design and fabrication of improved corneal prosthetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1298
Number of pages6
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Corneal biomechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Structural Biology


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