Scientists Discover New Layer of the Human Cornea

Posted on June 12, 2013

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have discovered a previous undetected layer in the human cornea. The thin layer is just 15 microns thick, which explains why it remained hidden for so long. It is located at the back of the cornea between the corneal stroma and Descemet's membrane. The dsicovery was announced in a study published here in the academic journal Ophthalmology.

The new layer has been named the Dua's Layer after Professor Harminder Dua who discovered it. Dua said in a statement, "This is a major discovery that will mean that ophthalmology textbooks will literally need to be re-written. Having identified this new and distinct layer deep in the tissue of the cornea, we can now exploit its presence to make operations much safer and simpler for patients. From a clinical perspective, there are many diseases that affect the back of the cornea which clinicians across the world are already beginning to relate to the presence, absence or tear in this layer."

The cornea is the clear protective lens on the front of the eye through which light enters the eye. It was previously thought to be comprised of five layers. The new layer was discovered by injecting tiny bubbles of air into corneas donated for research purposes to eye banks. The layers were then observed using electron microscopy. The scientists believe the discovery could lead to improvements in outcomes for patients undergoing corneal grafts and transplants. They also say they think a condition called corneal hydrops is caused by a tear in the ultra thin Dua layer.