Dry eyes occur when the eyes stop providing adequate lubrication with normal tears. People with this condition use different types of eye drops to replace lost natural tears and maintain lubrication.
Lead author Dr. John F. Hardesty, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington, explains that existing medications only work well in about 10% to 15% of patients.
Dry eye appears to alter the repair process by which the cornea of the eye heals after injury. And when the eyes are dry, the cornea is more susceptible to injury and less likely to repair itself. Consequently, 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 eyes.
The proteins show promise in preventing these eye injuries
studying, which was conducted on mice, found that proteins made by stem cells to help regenerate the cornea play a key role in this regeneration process and are promising targets for the treatment and prevention of corneal damage associated with dry eye disease. 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 genes expressed by the cornea in mouse models of dry eye, diabetes, and other conditions, the researchers were able to identify a gene, SPARC, that is activated most strongly in dry eye.
Higher levels of the SPARC protein are associated with better healing.
Overall, this work also reveals a significant plasticity of ocular stem cells and helps explain why corneal transplantation is so successful.
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