The corneal epithelium (epithelium corneæ anterior layer) is made up of epithelial tissue and covers the front of the cornea. It acts as a barrier to protect the cornea, resisting the free flow of fluids from the tears, and prevents bacteria from entering the epithelium and corneal stroma.
The corneal epithelium consists of several layers of cells. The cells of the deepest layer are columnar, known as basal cells. Then follow two or three layers of polyhedral cells, commonly known as wing cells. The majority of these are prickle cells, similar to those found in the stratum mucosum of the cuticle. Lastly, there are three or four layers of squamous cells, with flattened nuclei. The layers of the epithelium are constantly undergoing mitosis. Basal and wing cells migrate to the anterior of the cornea, while squamous cells age and slough off into the tear film.
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