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The finding could help improve results for people who undergo corneal grafts and transplants, according to the researchers at the University of Nottingham in England.
"This is a major discovery that will mean that ophthalmology textbooks will literally need to be rewritten," Harminder Dua, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, said in a university news release. "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."
Dua discovered the new layer, which is described in the journal Ophthalmology. In his honor, the new layer has been called Dua's 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," Dua said.
The cornea is the clear protective lens on the front of the eye. It was previously believed to have five layers. The new layer, which is located near the back of the cornea, is just 15 microns thick but it is incredibly tough, according to the study.
The researchers proved the existence of the new layer by simulating corneal transplants and grafts on eyes donated for research.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of Nottingham, news release, June 11, 2013