Elastic modulus and collagen organization of the rabbit cornea: Epithelium to endothelium

Sara M Thomasy, Vijay Krishna Raghunathan, Moritz Winkler, Christopher M. Reilly, Adeline R. Sadeli, Paul Russell, James V. Jester, Christopher J Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The rabbit is commonly used to evaluate new corneal prosthetics and study corneal wound healing. Knowledge of the stiffness of the rabbit cornea would better inform the design and fabrication of keratoprosthetics and substrates with relevant mechanical properties for in vitro investigations of corneal cellular behavior. This study determined the elastic modulus of the rabbit corneal epithelium, anterior basement membrane (ABM), anterior and posterior stroma, Descemet's membrane (DM) and endothelium using atomic force microscopy (AFM). In addition, three-dimensional collagen fiber organization of the rabbit cornea was determined using nonlinear optical high-resolution macroscopy. The elastic modulus as determined by AFM for each corneal layer was: epithelium, 0.57 ± 0.29 kPa (mean ± SD); ABM, 4.5 ± 1.2 kPa, anterior stroma, 1.1 ± 0.6 kPa; posterior stroma, 0.38 ± 0.22 kPa; DM, 11.7 ± 7.4 kPa; and endothelium, 4.1 ± 1.7 kPa. The biophysical properties, including the elastic modulus, are unique for each layer of the rabbit cornea and are dramatically softer in comparison to the corresponding regions of the human cornea. Collagen fiber organization is also dramatically different between the two species, with markedly less intertwining observed in the rabbit vs. human cornea. Given that the substratum stiffness considerably alters the corneal cell behavior, keratoprosthetics that incorporate mechanical properties simulating the native human cornea may not elicit optimal cellular performance in rabbit corneas that have dramatically different elastic moduli. These data should allow for the design of substrates that better mimic the biomechanical properties of the corneal cellular environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-791
Number of pages7
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • AFM
  • Cornea
  • Elastic modulus
  • Nonlinear optical high-resolution macroscopy
  • Rabbit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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