Biological glass: Structural determinants of eye lens transparency

Steven Bassnett, Yanrong Shi, Gijs F.J.M. Vrensen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of the lens is to project a sharply focused, undistorted image of the visual surround onto the neural retina. The first pre-requisite, therefore, is that the tissue should be transparent. Despite the presence of remarkably high levels of protein, the lens cytosol remains transparent as a result of short-range-order interactions between the proteins. At a cellular level, the programmed elimination of nuclei and other light-scattering organelles from cells located within the pupillary space contributes directly to tissue transparency. Scattering at the cell borders is minimized by the close apposition of lens fibre cells facilitated by a plethora of adhesive proteins, some expressed only in the lens. Similarly, refractive index matching between lens membranes and cytosol is believed to minimize scatter. Refractive index matching between the cytoplasm of adjacent cells is achieved through the formation of cellular fusions that allow the intermingling of proteins. Together, these structural adaptations serve to minimize light scatter and enable this living, cellular structure to function as 'biological glass'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1250-1264
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume366
Issue number1568
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 27 2011

Keywords

  • Cataract
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Electron microscopy
  • Eye lens
  • Transparency

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Biological glass: Structural determinants of eye lens transparency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this