Ultrastructural changes in rat cornea after prolonged hypobaric hypoxia

L. Mastropasqua, M. Ciancaglini, G. Di Tano, P. Carpineto, L. Lobefalo, B. Loffredo, D. Bosco, M. Columbaro, E. Falcieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A study was performed to evaluate the effect of prolonged environmental hypobaric hypoxia on the ultrastructure of rat cornea. 60-day-old female Wistar rats were exposed to a simulated altitude of 5,500 m (350 mmHg) and pO2 of 76 mmHg for 30 days. Control rats were exposed to atmospheric sea level pressure (760 mmHg) and pO2 of 150 mmHg, for the same period. Ultrastructural analysis of the cornea epithelium did not reveal any relevant difference between control and treated rats. In contrast, the corneal stroma of rats subjected to hypoxia showed vascularization with advanced vessel differentiation and signs of active proliferation. The endothelium of hypoxic cornea showed swollen mitochondria and large empty cytoplasmic areas. The endothelial intercellular junctions could hardly be identified in the hypoxic condition. Nevertheless, the most evident change in hypoxic cornea was in Descemet's membrane, which was considerably thickened, to approximately twice that of the control specimen. These results suggest that environmental hypobaric hypoxia induces marked alterations in the corneal stroma and endothelium morphology, probably related to reduced oxygen tension in the aqueous humor, consequent to hypoxemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Submicroscopic Cytology and Pathology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1998


  • Hypobaric hypoxia
  • Rat cornea
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Histology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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