Lens (anatomy) - Nourishment

Nourishment

The lens is metabolically active and requires nourishment in order to maintain its growth and transparency. Compared to other tissues in the eye, however, the lens has considerably lower energy demands.

By nine weeks into human development, the lens is surrounded and nourished by a net of vessels, the tunica vasculosa lentis, which is derived from the hyaloid artery. Beginning in the fourth month of development, the hyaloid artery and its related vasculature begin to atrophy and completely disappear by birth. In the postnatal eye, Cloquet’s canal marks the former location of the hyaloid artery.

After regression of the hyaloid artery, the lens receives all its nourishment from the aqueous humor. Nutrients diffuse in and waste diffuses out through a constant flow of fluid from the anterior/posterior poles of the lens and out of the equatorial regions, a dynamic that is maintained by the Na+/K+ ATPase pumps located in the equatorially positioned cells of the lens epithelium.

Glucose is the primary energy source for the lens. As mature lens fibers do not have mitochondria, approximately 80% of the glucose is metabolized via anaerobic metabolism. The remaining fraction of glucose is shunted primarily down the pentose phosphate pathway. The lack of aerobic respiration means that the lens consumes very little oxygen as well.

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