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Eleanor M. Feneck, Philip N. Lewis, Keith M. Meek; Identification of a Primary Stroma and Novel Endothelial Cell Projections in the Developing Human Cornea. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(6):5. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.6.5.
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To investigate the initial events in the development of the human cornea, focusing on cell migration, and extracellular matrix synthesis and organization. To determine whether elastic fibers are present in the extracellular matrix during early human corneal development.
Human corneas were collected from week 7 to week 17 of development. An elastic fiber-enhancing stain, tannic acid–uranyl acetate, was applied to all tissue. Three-dimensional serial block-face scanning electron microscopy combined with conventional transmission electron microscopy was used to analyze the corneal stroma.
An acellular collagenous primary stroma with an orthogonal arrangement of fibrils was identified in the central cornea from week 7 of corneal development. At week 7.5, mesenchymal cells migrated toward the central cornea and associated with the acellular collagenous matrix. Novel cell extensions from the endothelium were identified. Elastic fibers were found concentrated in the posterior peripheral corneal stroma from week 12 of corneal development.
This study provides novel evidence of an acellular primary stroma in the early development of the embryonic human cornea. Cell extensions exist as part of a communication system and are hypothesized to assist in the migration of the mesenchymal cells and the development of the mature cornea. Elastic fibers identified in early corneal development may play an important role in establishing corneal shape.
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