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The vitreous body of the human eye consists of mostly water, but there is also a small percentage of collagen fibres.

What is the function of these fibers?

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Collagens are a family of fibrous proteins (as opposed to globular proteins like enzymes and hormones and membrane proteins like cell receptors) that form part of connective tissue. Thus they are important in forming the structure of many organs and tissues.

Connective tissue is one of the four main types of animal tissue. The others are epithelial tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue.


In the eye, connective tissue is responsible for much of the structure of the organ.

The vitreous is a fluid-like gel contained in the posterior chamber of the eye, between the lens and retina.

According to this paper:

The vitreous is the fluid-like gel, composed of approximately 98–99% water with trace amounts of hyaluronic acid, glucose, anions, cations, ions, and collagen, located in the posterior chambers of the eyes.

According to this paper:

Collagens are important macromolecules that contribute to vitreoretinal adhesion at the vitreoretinal interface.

So the vitreous is a type of connective tissue, just one that has a greater proportion of water than most. As such, it contains proteins like collagens and hyaluronic acid which contribute to its viscosity.

Collagens are also important for vitreoretinal attachment (between the vitreous and the retina at the back of the eye). Thus some of the collagen found in the vitreous may originate at the retina.

Sources:

Lappas and Lappas. 2016. Analytics samples

Ponsioen TL et al. 2008. Human vitreoretinal interface

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  • Do I get that correctly: The function of the collagen fibres in the vitreous is (or was) to attach the vitreous to the retina? What happens if the vitreous lacks these fibers, e.g. after removal during surgery? Will these fibers eventually grow again, or will they be lost permanently? – user2587106 Nov 20 '19 at 19:45
  • @user2587106 The collagen contributes to the viscosity of the vitreous (which is important for maintaining the shape of the eye globe). Some of the fibres may have originated at the vitreoretinal junction where they are used for adhesion. I’m not aware of conditions where this collagen is absent, although systemic connective tissue disorders (that affect collagen) can impact the eyes and vision. Generally, proteins like collagen can be repaired and replaced if necessary. – Chris Nov 20 '19 at 21:58
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    OK, then the answer to my question in summary is this: The function of the collagen fibres in the vitreous is to attach the vitreous to the retina, and, to contribute to the viscosity of the vitreous. What happens after the collagen fibres have been removed during surgery (vitrectomy) is out of scope for this question. With that I consider my question answered, thank you very much. – user2587106 Nov 21 '19 at 10:15

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