BioMedical Engineering OnLine

, 11:69

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Development of a 3D finite element model of lens microcirculation

  • Ehsan VaghefiAffiliated withDepartment of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University of AucklandAuckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland Email author 
  • , Duane TK MalcolmAffiliated withAuckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland
  • , Marc D JacobsAffiliated withAuckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland
  • , Paul J DonaldsonAffiliated withDepartment of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University of AucklandSchool of Medical Sciences, University of Auckland



It has been proposed that in the absence of a blood supply, the ocular lens operates an internal microcirculation system. This system delivers nutrients, removes waste products and maintains ionic homeostasis in the lens. The microcirculation is generated by spatial differences in membrane transport properties; and previously has been modelled by an equivalent electrical circuit and solved analytically. While effective, this approach did not fully account for all the anatomical and functional complexities of the lens. To encapsulate these complexities we have created a 3D finite element computer model of the lens.


Initially, we created an anatomically-correct representative mesh of the lens. We then implemented the Stokes and advective Nernst-Plank equations, in order to model the water and ion fluxes respectively. Next we complemented the model with experimentally-measured surface ionic concentrations as boundary conditions and solved it.


Our model calculated the standing ionic concentrations and electrical potential gradients in the lens. Furthermore, it generated vector maps of intra- and extracellular space ion and water fluxes that are proposed to circulate throughout the lens. These fields have only been measured on the surface of the lens and our calculations are the first 3D representation of their direction and magnitude in the lens.


Values for steady state standing fields for concentration and electrical potential plus ionic and fluid fluxes calculated by our model exhibited broad agreement with observed experimental values. Our model of lens function represents a platform to integrate new experimental data as they emerge and assist us to understand how the integrated structure and function of the lens contributes to the maintenance of its transparency.


Computational modelling Ocular lens Microcirculation Finite element Physiological optics