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Short lipids linked to dry eyes

Shortening very long-chain lipids in the most superficial layer of the tear film caused severe dry eye in animal models, a result which researchers say could help develop new drugs for the disease.

A team from Hokkaido University in Japan, led by Professor Akio Kihara, created mice whose Elovl1 gene, which encodes an enzyme that elongates fatty acid chains, was deleted from everywhere but the skin.

This resulted in the affected mice blinking frequently and exhibiting signs of dry eye, such as increased water evaporation from the tear film, at a young age.

The researchers also found that the knockout mice had less very long-chain meibum (≥ 25 carbons), but more short-chain meibum.

After five months, many of the mice developed cloudy corneas, which the researchers believe was due to prolonged dry eye that inhibited the ability of the cornea to self-repair.

According to Kihara, these results indicate Elovl1 is closely linked to the synthesis of very long-chain meibum, which appear to be essential to preventing dry eye disease.

“Our results could help develop new drugs to treat and prevent the dry eye disease, such as agents that promote the secretion of very long-chain meibum or eye drops containing these lipids,” said Kihara.


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