Modeling the biomechanics of the conventional aqueous outflow pathway microstructure in the human eye

Alireza Karimi, Reza Razaghi, Seyed Mohammadali Rahmati, J. Crawford Downs, Ted S. Acott, Ruikang K. Wang, Murray Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background and objective: Intraocular pressure (IOP) is determined by aqueous humor outflow resistance, which is a function of the combined resistance of Schlemm's canal (SC) endothelium and the trabecular meshwork (TM) and their interactions in the juxtacanalicular connective tissue (JCT) region. Aqueous outflow in the conventional outflow pathway results in pressure gradient across the TM, JCT, and SC inner wall, and induces mechanical stresses and strains that influence the geometry and homeostasis of the outflow system. The outflow resistance is affected by alteration in tissues’ geometry, so there is potential for active, two-way, fluid-structure interaction (FSI) coupling between the aqueous humor (fluid) and the TM, JCT, and SC inner wall (structure). However, our understanding of the biomechanical interactions of the aqueous humor with the outflow connective tissues and its contribution to the outflow resistance regulation is incomplete. Methods: In this study, a microstructural finite element (FE) model of a human eye TM, JCT, and SC inner wall was constructed from a segmented, high-resolution histologic 3D reconstruction of the human outflow system. Three different elastic moduli (0.004, 0.128, and 51.5 MPa based on prior reports) were assigned to the TM/JCT complex while the elastic modulus of the SC inner wall was kept constant at 0.00748 MPa. The hydraulic conductivity was programmed separately for the TM, JCT, and SC inner wall using a custom subroutine. Cable elements were embedded into the TM and JCT extracellular matrix to represent the directional stiffness imparted by anisotropic collagen fibril orientation. The resultant stresses and strains in the outflow system were calculated using fluid-structure interaction method. Results: The higher TM/JCT stiffness resulted in larger stresses, but smaller strains in the outflow connective tissues, and resulted in a 4- and 5-fold larger pressure drop across the SC inner wall, respectively, compared to the most compliant model. Funneling through µm-sized SC endothelial pores was evident in the models at lower tissue stiffness, but aqueous flow was more turbulent in models with higher TM/JCT stiffness. Conclusions: The mechanical properties of the outflow tissues play a crucial role in the hydrodynamics of the aqueous humor in the conventional outflow system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106922
JournalComputer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Fluid-structure interaction
  • Juxtacanalicular tissue
  • Outflow resistance
  • Schlemm's canal
  • Trabecular meshwork

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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