Key Tear Film Lipid Identified

In a finding that could signal improved treatments for dry eye, Australian identified, and then synthesized in the lab, an important component of the tear film lipid layer.

While long-chain lipids make only a small portion (around 5%) of the total tear film lipid layer, they are essential for maintaining the ocular clarity of the tear film. Without the presence of these lipids, says said Stephen Blanksby, a professor at the Queensland University of Technology who led the research team in this study, “This clearly wouldn’t be satisfactory for you to look through.”

The exact structure of the lipids, known as (O-acyl)-ω-hydroxy fatty acids, was determined through mass spectrometry, because of the difficulties in obtaining large enough samples from the meibum to run other types of analysis such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Chemist Michael J. Kelso’s group at the University of Wollongong in Australia was able to synthesize the lipid once the exact structure was determined.

The research team is currently working with Allergan, who co-funded the research, to incorporate the newly synthesized lipid into dry eye drops. “This type of work provides a framework to produce a product that mimics, and is based on, the actual components that are present in human tears,” said Blanksby. By creating dry eye drops that more closely mimic a real tear film, Blanksby hopes to alleviate the negative side effects of drops.

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