The layer reportedly sits at the back of the cornea, in between two other layers that surgeons are all too familiar with: the corneal stroma and Descemet’s membrane.
The average human cornea measures about 550 microns in thickness. Since this layer only has a thickness of about 15 microns, it is no wonder that researchers have remained oblivious to its presence for so long.
The University of Nottingham scientists say that, contrary to expectations, the layer is quite tough. They maintain that, according to their investigations, it can withstand up to 1.5-2 bars of pressure.
This layer has never been documented before, and the researchers who found it hope that their breakthrough will make it possible for surgeons to roll out better treatment options for patients who are in need of either corneal grafts or corneal transplants.
“This is a major discovery that will mean that ophthalmology textbooks will literally need to be re-written,” said Professor Harminder Dua, as cited by Alpha Galileo Foundation.
“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 went on to explain.
The layer is presently referred to as Dua’s Layer. This is because the aforementioned professor was the one who discovered it while carrying out simulations of corneal transplants and corneal grafts.
The professor says that, as part of these simulations, he had to force air bubbles into human corneas donated for research purposes.
The air bubbles caused the layers forming the cornea to become separated from one another, and made it possible for Professor Harminder Dua and his colleagues to spot the previously undocumented one.