Scleral Stiffness and Glaucoma

Cynthia Roberts, PhD and Phil Yuhas, OD, PhD

Vision researchers Cynthia Roberts, PhD, professor in Ohio State’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and Phillip Yuhas, OD, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Optometry, are investigating the biomechanics of the cornea and eye to understand the role of tissue biomechanics in health and ocular diseases. Differences in corneal and scleral (white portion of the eye) stiffness are studied among those of Sub-Saharan African (SSA), European (EUR), and mixed-race (MIX) descent. Collected data includes structural measurements of the cornea, anterior chamber depth, lens thickness, and axial length, and measurement of intraocular pressure (IOP).

The study originally focused on testing individuals with healthy eyes. However, preliminary findings from the first half of the study revealed a greater scleral response in individuals of Sub-Saharan African descent than European descent. So, realizing the potential importance of this finding to the later development of glaucoma, the study has expanded study recruitment to include individuals with newly diagnosed glaucoma as well. In a single research visit, recruited subjects undergo imaging of the anterior segment using various devices, including Heidelberg Engineering’s ANTERION® optical coherence technology (OCT) platform, and measurements of intraocular pressure utilizing the Corvis®STL tonometer. In addition, saliva samples are collected. These modalities permit the investigation of differences in corneal and scleral stiffness within and between individuals of different descents, and the Department of Ophthalmology is fortunate to have a variety of novel technologies that enable and facilitate such research. 

This study has also led to the initiation of a similar study that will investigate differences in the corneal and scleral biomechanics among individuals of South Asian, East Asian, and Hispanic/LatinX ethnicities. It is currently funded by a UnEYEted grant – “Corneal Biomechanical Comparison between Individuals of African Descent and European Descent.” Additionally, a recent grant award will support genetic testing of the study’s DNA samples to identify known genetic markers of glaucoma and corneal biomechanics and additional subject enrollment.

Cynthia Roberts, PhD

Phil Yuhas, OD, PhD