PURPOSE. The prevailing theory about the function of lamina cribrosa (LC) connective tissues is that they provide structural support to adjacent neural tissues. Missing connective tissues would compromise this support and therefore are regarded as "LC defects", despite scarce actual evidence of their role. We examined how so-called LC defects alter IOP-related mechanical insult to the LC neural tissues. METHODS. We built numerical models incorporating LC microstructure from polarized light microscopy images. To simulate LC defects of varying sizes, individual beams were progressively removed. We then compared intraocular pressure (IOP)-induced neural tissue deformations between models with and without defects. To better understand the consequences of defect development, we also compared neural tissue deformations between models with partial and complete loss of a beam. RESULTS. The maximum stretch of neural tissues decreased non-monotonically with defect size. Maximum stretch in the model with the largest defect decreased by 40% in comparison to the model with no defects. Partial loss of a beam increased the maximum stretch of neural tissues in its adjacent pores by 162%, compared with 63% in the model with complete loss of a beam. CONCLUSIONS. Missing LC connective tissues can mitigate IOP-induced neural tissue insult, suggesting that the role of the LC connective tissues is more complex than simply fortifying against IOP. The numerical models further predict that partial loss of a beam is biomechanically considerably worse than complete loss of a beam, perhaps explaining why defects have been reported clinically but partial beams have not.
- Lamina cribrosa
- Optic nerve head
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience