DRY EYE: Boost natural corneal repair
Dry eye occurs when the eye no longer provides adequate lubrication with natural tears. People with this condition use different types of drops to replace missing natural tears and maintain lubrication.
Lead author Dr. John F. Hardesty, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington explains that existing drugs only work well in about 10% to 15% of patients.
Dry eye appears to alter the reparative process by which the cornea of the eye heals after injury. And, when the eyes are dry, the cornea is more likely to get injured and less likely to repair itself. Thus, tens of millions of people around the world suffer from eye pain and blurred vision as a result of complications and injuries associated with dry eye.
Proteins show promise to prevent these eye injuries
The studyconducted on mice, finds that proteins made by stem cells to help regenerate the cornea are key players in this regeneration process and promising targets for the treatment and prevention of corneal damage linked to dry eye. By following the movements of stem cells in the eyes of mice, the researchers were able to decipher their differentiation into corneal cells and their migration towards the center of the cornea during the repair process. By analyzing the genes expressed by the cornea in mouse models of dry eye, diabetes and other conditions, the researchers were able to identify a gene, SPARC, which is more strongly activated in dry eye.
Higher levels of SPARC protein are associated with better healing.
Overall, this work also reveals great resilience of eye stem cells and helps explain why corneal transplantation works so well.
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