Mechanics and spiral formation in the rat cornea

T. Mohammad Nejad, S. Iannaccone, W. Rutherford, Philip M Iannaccone, C. D. Foster*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


During the maturation of some mammals such as mice and rats, corneal epithelial cells tend to develop into patterns such as spirals over time. A better understanding of these patterns can help to understand how the organ develops and may give insight into some of the diseases affecting corneal development. In this paper, a framework for explaining the development of the epithelial cells forming spiral patterns due to the effect of tensile and shear strains is proposed. Using chimeric animals, made by combining embryonic cells from genetically distinguishable strains, we can observe the development of patterns in the cornea. Aggregates of cell progeny from one strain or the other called patches form as organs and tissue develop. The boundaries of these patches are fitted with logarithmic spirals on confocal images of adult rat corneas. To compare with observed patterns, we develop a three-dimensional large strain finite element model for the rat cornea under intraocular pressure to examine the strain distribution on the cornea surface. The model includes the effects of oriented and dispersed fibrils families throughout the cornea and a nearly incompressible matrix. Tracing the directions of critical strain vectors on the cornea surface leads to spiral-like curves that are compared to the observed logarithmic spirals. Good agreement between the observed and numerical curves supports the proposed assumption that shear and tensile strains facilitate sliding of epithelial cells to develop spiral patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-122
Number of pages16
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Chimera
  • Cornea mechanics
  • Finite element analysis
  • Rat cornea
  • Spiral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Modeling and Simulation


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