The Biomechanics of the Mouse Sclera: Effects of Strain, Age, and Glaucoma
Numerous studies have suggested an association between scleral biomechanical alterations and optic nerve dysfunction. Our ultimate goal is to determine how the mechanical properties of the sclera, the white portion of the eye, influence the development of glaucoma optic nerve damage and how the development of glaucoma damage in turn alters the mechanical properties of the sclera. Towards this goal, we are developing an inflation test to characterize and compare the mechanical behavior of the sclera of a glaucoma mouse model and its genetically matched control.
This research is part of a long-term program to study the role of scleral biomechanics in glaucoma. While it is now proposed that differences in the mechanical behavior of the sclera increase the susceptibility to glaucoma, the magnitude of this effect is unknown. In this study, we modify the biomechanical properties (e.g., stiffness) of living eyes, through chemical treatments and gene knockout techniques. These approaches will shed light on the relationship between connective tissue structure, mechanical properties, and disease progression. We will develop a new experimental method to inflate eyes, in vitro, and measure the mechanical behavior of the sclera. The study examines animals at different ages, including a strain of animals that spontaneously develops glaucoma. The results will be compared statistically to identify differences in their mechanical behavior due to strain, age, and glaucoma. The findings of the proposed research could lead to the development of non-invasive testing procedures for glaucoma that measure the properties of the sclera near the transition zone between the cornea and sclera, and identify individuals at higher risk for the initial development and rapid progression of the disease. Moreover it can lead to the development of new drug therapies to slow the progression of the disease by altering the mechanical behavior of the sclera.