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Australians achieve dry eye research breakthrough

08/08/2018By Matthew Woodley
A joint Australian study into better understanding tear film composition could lead to more effective dry eye disease treatments, according to the researchers involved.

The collaboration between the University of Wollongong (UOW), Queensland Univeristy of Technology (QUT) and UNSW has been able to determine all the components of a class of lipids called OAHFAs, which have previously been found to be essential for the smooth spreading of the tear film. Previously, because they were present at low levels within a complex mixture, no one had been able to determine unequivocally its molecular structure.

However, the team was able to rectify this and determine the exact molecular structure of the most abundant OAHFAs present in the tear film, by using advanced spectrometry techniques.


“Further research will uncover how these compounds act to stabilise the tear film and thus provide a pathway to more effective treatments for dry eye disease.”
Stephen Blanskby, QUT

Multiple experimental strategies were required to determine the molecular structure of these lipids, including laser photons, and researchers from UOW’s School of Chemistry were able to synthesise successfully the molecules, which confirmed the mass spectrometry findings.

QUT’s Professor Stephen Blanksby, who used the Central Analytical Research Facility (CARF) to explore the complex molecular architecture of lipids, supervised this aspect of the research.

“With the detailed structure of OAHFA in hand, our team prepared the first synthetic versions of these lipids paving the way for examination of their physical and biochemical properties,” Blanksby said.

“Further research will uncover how these compounds act to stabilise the tear film and thus provide a pathway to more effective treatments for dry eye disease.”

The results of the study, ‘Mass spectrometry-directed structure elucidation and total synthesis of ultra-long chain (O-acyl)-ω-hydroxy fatty acids’, are featured as the cover article in the August issue of the Journal of Lipid Research.

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