Role of radially aligned scleral collagen fibers in optic nerve head biomechanics

Yi Hua, Andrew P. Voorhees, Ning Jiun Jan, Bingrui Wang, Susannah Waxman, Joel S. Schuman, Ian A. Sigal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Collagen fibers organized circumferentially around the canal in the peripapillary sclera are thought to provide biomechanical support to the sensitive tissues within the optic nerve head (ONH). Recent studies have demonstrated the existence of a family of fibers in the innermost sclera organized radially from the scleral canal. Our goal was to determine the role of these radial fibers in the sensitivity of scleral canal biomechanics to acute increases in intraocular pressure (IOP). Following the same general approach of previous parametric sensitivity studies, we created nonlinear generic finite element models of a posterior pole with various combinations of radial and circumferential fibers at an IOP of 0 mmHg. We then simulated the effects of normal and elevated IOP levels (15 and 30 mmHg). We monitored four IOP-induced geometric changes: peripapillary sclera stretch, scleral canal displacement, lamina cribrosa displacement, and scleral canal expansion. In addition, we examined the radial (maximum tension) and through-thickness (maximum compression) strains within the ONH tissues. Our models predicted that: 1) radial fibers reduced the posterior displacement of the lamina, especially at elevated IOP; 2) radial fibers reduced IOP-induced radial strain within the peripapillary sclera and retinal tissue; and 3) a combination of radial and circumferential fibers maintained strains within the ONH at a level similar to those conferred by circumferential fibers alone. In conclusion, radial fibers provide support for the posterior globe, additional to that provided by circumferential fibers. Most importantly, a combination of both fiber families can better protect ONH tissues from excessive IOP-induced deformation than either alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108188
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Biomechanics
  • Collagen
  • Microstructure
  • Optic nerve head
  • Sclera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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