A mesh-free approach to incorporate complex anisotropic and heterogeneous material properties into eye-specific finite element models

Academic Article


  • Commercial finite element modeling packages do not have the tools necessary to effectively incorporate the complex anisotropic and heterogeneous material properties typical of the biological tissues of the eye. We propose a mesh-free approach to incorporate realistic material properties into finite element models of individual human eyes. The method is based on the idea that material parameters can be estimated or measured at so called control points, which are arbitrary and independent of the finite element mesh. The mesh-free approach approximates the heterogeneous material parameters at the Gauss points of each finite element while the boundary value problem is solved using the standard finite element method. The proposed method was applied to an eye-specific model a human posterior pole and optic nerve head. We demonstrate that the method can be used to effectively incorporate experimental measurements of the lamina cribrosa micro-structure into the eye-specific model. It was convenient to define characteristic material orientations at the anterior and posterior scleral surface based on the eye-specific geometry of each sclera. The mesh-free approach was effective in approximating these characteristic material directions with smooth transitions across the sclera. For the first time, the method enabled the incorporation of the complex collagen architecture of the peripapillary sclera into an eye-specific model including the recently discovered meridional fibers at the anterior surface and the depth dependent width of circumferential fibers around the scleral canal. The model results suggest that disregarding the meridional fiber region may lead to an underestimation of local strain concentrations in the retina. The proposed approach should simplify future studies that aim to investigate collagen remodeling in the sclera and optic nerve head or in other biological tissues with similar challenges.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Grytz R; Krishnan K; Whitley R; Libertiaux V; Sigal IA; Girkin CA; Downs JC
  • Volume

  • 358