Japanese scientists have just released a study suggesting a new way to treat dry eye syndrome. According to this new research, the key to successful dry eye drops might be found in the eye's lipid layer.
The eye's tear layer is composed of water, mucin, and lipids. Most over-the-counter drops for dry eye only target water or mucin. Modern doctors are now realizing, however, that lipids play an extremely important role in keeping the eyes well lubricated.
Recent studies suggest that 80 percent of patients with dry eye syndrome have some issue with lipids. With these facts in mind, researchers at Japan's a Hokkaido University investigated how the eye's lipid layer contributes to dry eye syndrome.
As a part of their study, scientists removed the gene a Elovl1 from a group of baby mice. The Elovl1 gene is important in making long fatty acid chains all over the body.
Most lipids in the eyes' tear film (aka meibum) are long-chain structures. By getting rid of the mice's Elovl1 gene, scientists wanted to observe whether or not the mice would automatically develop dry eye syndrome.
After just a few weeks, doctors observed that the mice without the Elovl1 gene blinked at a higher frequency than normal mice. They also discovered that these mice developed corneal problems after about five months.
When they examined the meibum being produced in these mice's eyes, they only found short-chain structures. This clearly shows the Elovl1 gene plays a key role in protecting the eyes by helping to produce long-chain lipids.
Ultimately, study authors hope this research will help develop new dry eye drugs that target the lipid layer.
Due mainly to the prevalence of electronic screens, dry eye syndrome has become an epidemic all over the world. About one in ten Japanese citizens now suffer from this disease.
Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include eye redness, eye fatigue, and itchy eyes. While there's no cure for dry eye syndrome, there are many ways patients can manage their symptoms.
Dry eye syndrome cases are often intertwined with computer vision strain. People with computer vision syndrome usually stare at the computer screen every day and experience the same symptoms as dry eye patients.
Anyone who stares at electric screens all day is encouraged to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away from your computer screen for 20 seconds. This simple rule will help your eyes naturally re-moisturise.
In addition to following the 20-20-20 rule, dry eye sufferers should consider taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements and walk outside every day. Regular consumption of omega-3 has been shown to increase eye wettability, and walking under the sun is excellent for getting your daily dose of vitamin D. Foods with a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids include wild-caught Alaskan salmon, walnuts, and sardines.
Akio Kihara, who teaches pharmaceutical sciences at Hokkaido University, was the head researcher on this study. The Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development funded this study as a part of its "Studies on the Functions of Lipid Molecules to Develop Innovative Medical Technologies" program.
This study was recently published in the a Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal. Researchers entitled this article, "Very long-chain tear film lipids produced by fatty acid elongase ELOVL1 prevent dry eye disease in mice."