The penny pusher: A cellular model of lens growth

Yanrong Shi, Alicia De Maria, Snježana Lubura, Hrvoje Šikić, Steven Bassnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Purpose. The mechanisms that regulate the number of cells in the lens and, therefore, its size and shape are unknown. We examined the dynamic relationship between proliferative behavior in the epithelial layer and macroscopic lens growth. Methods. The distribution of S-phase cells across the epithelium was visualized by confocal microscopy and cell populations were determined from orthographic projections of the lens surface. Results. The number of S-phase cells in the mouse lens epithelium fell exponentially, to an asymptotic value of approximately 200 cells by 6 months. Mitosis became increasingly restricted to a 300-lm-wide swath of equatorial epithelium, the germinative zone (GZ), within which two peaks in labeling index were detected. Postnatally, the cell population increased to approximately 50,000 cells at 4 weeks of age. Thereafter, the number of cells declined, despite continued growth in lens dimensions. This apparently paradoxical observation was explained by a time-dependent increase in the surface area of cells at all locations. The cell biological measurements were incorporated into a physical model, the Penny Pusher. In this simple model, cells were considered to be of a single type, the proliferative behavior of which depended solely on latitude. Simulations using the Penny Pusher predicted the emergence of cell clones and were in good agreement with data obtained from earlier lineage-tracing studies. Conclusions. The Penny Pusher, a simple stochastic model, offers a useful conceptual framework for the investigation of lens growth mechanisms and provides a plausible alternative to growth models that postulate the existence of lens stem cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 16 2014


  • Epithelium
  • Growth
  • Model


Dive into the research topics of 'The penny pusher: A cellular model of lens growth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this