Real-time imaging of optic nerve head collagen microstructure and biomechanics using instant polarized light microscopy



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Experimental Eye Research






Collagen, Crimp, Deformation, Lamina cribrosa, Optic nerve head, Polarized light microscopy


Current tools lack the temporal or spatial resolution necessary to image many important aspects of the architecture and dynamics of the optic nerve head (ONH). We evaluated the potential of instant polarized light microscopy (IPOL) to overcome these limitations by leveraging the ability to capture collagen fiber orientation and density in a single image. Coronal sections through the ONH of fresh normal sheep eyes were imaged using IPOL while they were stretched using custom uniaxial or biaxial micro-stretch devices. IPOL allows identifying ONH collagen architectural details, such as fiber interweaving and crimp, and has high temporal resolution, limited only by the frame rate of the camera. Local collagen fiber orientations and deformations were quantified using color analysis and image tracking techniques. We quantified stretch-induced collagen uncrimping of lamina cribrosa (LC) and peripapillary sclera (PPS), and changes in LC pore size (area) and shape (convexity and aspect ratio). The simultaneous high spatial and temporal resolutions of IPOL revealed complex ONH biomechanics: i) stretch-induced local deformation of the PPS was nonlinear and nonaffine. ii) under load the crimped collagen fibers in the PPS and LC straightened, without torsion and with only small rotations. iii) stretch-induced LC pore deformation was anisotropic and heterogeneous among pores. Overall, with stretch the pores were became larger, more convex, and more circular. We have demonstrated that IPOL reveals details of collagen morphology and mechanics under dynamic loading previously out of reach. IPOL can detect stretch-induced collagen uncrimping and other elements of the tissue nonlinear mechanical behavior. IPOL showed changes in pore morphology and collagen architecture that will help improve understanding of how LC tissue responds to load.

Open Access

Green Accepted