The lens is also known as the aquula (Latin, a little stream, dim. of aqua, water) or crystalline lens. In humans, the refractive power of the lens in its natural environment is approximately 18 dioptres, roughly one-third of the eye's total power.
The lens is part of the anterior segment of the human eye. In front of the lens is the iris, which regulates the amount of light entering into the eye. The lens is suspended in place by the suspensory ligament of the lens, a ring of fibrous tissue that attaches to the lens at its equator and connects it to the ciliary body. Posterior to the lens is the vitreous body, which, along with the aqueous humor on the anterior surface, bathes the lens. The lens has an ellipsoid, biconvex shape. The anterior surface is less curved than the posterior. In the adult, the lens is typically circa 10 mm in diameter and has an axial length of about 4 mm, though it is important to note that the size and shape can change due to accommodation and because the lens continues to grow throughout a person's lifetime.
The lens has three main parts: the lens capsule, the lens epithelium, and the lens fibers. The lens capsule forms the outermost layer of the lens and the lens fibers form the bulk of the interior of the lens. The cells of the lens epithelium, located between the lens capsule and the outermost layer of lens fibers, are found only on the anterior side of the lens. The lens itself lacks nerves, blood vessels, or connective tissue.
The lens capsule is a smooth, transparent basement membrane that completely surrounds the lens. The capsule is elastic and is composed of collagen. It is synthesized by the lens epithelium and its main components are Type IV collagen and sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). The capsule is very elastic and so allows the lens to assume a more globular shape when not under the tension of the zonular fibers, which connect the lens capsule to the ciliary body. The capsule varies from 2 to 28 micrometres in thickness, being thickest near the equator and thinnest near the posterior pole.
The lens epithelium, located in the anterior portion of the lens between the lens capsule and the lens fibers, is a simple cuboidal epithelium. The cells of the lens epithelium regulate most of the homeostatic functions of the lens. As ions, nutrients, and liquid enter the lens from the aqueous humor, Na+/K+-ATPase pumps in the lens epithelial cells pump ions out of the lens to maintain appropriate lens osmotic concentration and volume, with equatorially positioned lens epithelium cells contributing most to this current. The activity of the Na+/K+-ATPases keeps water and current flowing through the lens from the poles and exiting through the equatorial regions.
The cells of the lens epithelium also serve as the progenitors for new lens fibers. It constantly lays down fibers in the embryo, fetus, infant, and adult, and continues to lay down fibers for lifelong growth.
The lens fibers form the bulk of the lens. They are long, thin, transparent cells, firmly packed, with diameters typically 4–7 micrometres and lengths of up to 12 mm long. The lens fibers stretch lengthwise from the posterior to the anterior poles and, when cut horizontally, are arranged in concentric layers rather like the layers of an onion. If cut along the equator, it appears as a honeycomb. The middle of each fiber lies on the equator. These tightly packed layers of lens fibers are referred to as laminae. The lens fibers are linked together via gap junctions and interdigitations of the cells that resemble "ball and socket" forms.