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Time to re-write the textbooks: British scientists discover a new part of the human body – hidden deep in the eye

  • Nottingham  researchers found the new layer – which is just 0.001 mm thick – within  the  cornea, the clear window at the front of the eye
  • Called ‘Dua’s  Layer’, it could dramatically improve corneal graft treatments
  • The previously  undetected layer could explain a myriad of eye diseases

By  Nicola Rowe

PUBLISHED: 12:25 EST, 13  June 2013 |  UPDATED: 12:35 EST, 13 June 2013

A previously unknown layer of the cornea has  been discovered in the human eye, a breakthrough experts say could ‘rewrite the  opthalmology textbooks’.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham  found the new layer – which is just 0.001 mm thick – within the cornea, the  clear window at the front of the eye.

They say it could help surgeons dramatically  improve outcomes for patients undergoing corneal grafts and transplants.

The discovery of Dua's Layer could explain the source of a number of previously unexplained eye diseasesThe discovery of Dua’s Layer could explain the source of  a number of previously unexplained eye diseases



  •  Knowledge of Dua’s Layer could improve  outcomes for patients undergoing corneal grafts and transplants
  • During surgery, tiny air bubble are injected  into corneal stroma via the ‘big bubble technique’
  • If the bubble bursts it causes damage to the  eye.
  • But if the air bubble is injected under  Dua’s layer instead of above it, the layer’s strength reduces the risk of  tearing
  • Diseases of the cornea including acute  hydrops, Descematocele and pre-Descemet’s dystrophies may be affected by the  discovery of Dua’s layer

Problems with the layer could also  explain many eye diseases that until now were elusive in origin.

The new layer has been dubbed the Dua’s  layer, after Professor Harminder Dua who discovered it, reports journal Ophthalmology.

Professor Dua said: “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.

Professor Harminder Dua at the University of Nottingham discovered the previously undetected layer 

Professor Harminder Dua at the University of Nottingham  discovered the previously undetected layer

‘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.’

Scientists previously believed the cornea to  be comprised of five layers, from front to back, the corneal epithelium,  Bowman’s layer, the corneal stroma, Descemet’s membrane and the corneal  endothelium.

The new layer that has been discovered is  located at the back of the cornea between the corneal stroma and Descemet’s  membrane.

Although it is just 15 microns thick – the  entire cornea is around 550 microns thick or 0.5mm – it is incredibly tough and  is strong enough to be able to withstand one and a half to two bars of  pressure.

Researchers proved the layer existed by  simulating human corneal transplants and grafts on eyes donated for  research.

During these experiments, tiny bubbles of air  were injected into the cornea to separate the different layers.

The scientists then subjected the separated  layers to electron microscopy, allowing them to study them at many thousand  times their actual size and revealing Dua’s layer.

The authors say that the discovery will have  an impact on advancing understanding of a number of diseases of the cornea,  including acute hydrops, Descematocele and pre-Descemet’s  dystrophies

The scientists now believe that corneal  hydrops, a bulging of the cornea caused by fluid build up that occurs in  patients with keratoconus (conical deformity of the cornea), is caused by a tear  in the Dua layer, through which water from inside the eye rushes in and causes  waterlogging.

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