A new study out of the University of Michigan reveals new information on how bioelectrical patterns in the eyes could contribute to dry eye syndrome. Scientists hope this new information will lead to novel treatment strategies for this all-too-common ailment.
Researchers involved in this study examined the electrical signals in the eyes of healthy mice and those with dry eyes. In particular, investigators looked at the bioelectrical signals sent to so-called “goblet cells.” Goblet cells are located along a person’s eyelid and play a key role in producing mucin, which helps retain moisture in the eyes.
Interestingly, scientists discovered more bioelectrical signals in the goblet cells of mice suffering from dry eyes rather than the control group. While this had the effect of creating more mucin, researchers note that this increase in electrical activity is only a temporary solution.
So long as the mice’s eyes have too much salt and too little water, they will continue to experience dry eye symptoms over the long haul.
Of course, if doctors could figure out how to safely stimulate goblet cells, this could help ease dry eye symptoms. Study authors hope their finding will encourage more research into this subject and potentially lead to a bioelectrical-based treatment for dry eye.
Due to the wide profusion of digital screens, dry eye cases are on the rise all over the world. Key symptoms of this disorder include increased eye itchiness, red eyes, and sensitivity to bright lights.
While there’s no cure for dry eye syndrome, there are many things patients can do to control their symptoms. For example, dry eye sufferers often experience great relief from their symptoms by reducing the amount of time spent on electronic screens, eating omega-3 rich foods, and getting out in the sun for at least 20 minutes every day.
Dr. Donald G. Puro, who teaches ophthalmology and integrative physiology at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center, was the lead author on this study.
Anyone interested in this research should pick up the latest edition of the American Journal of Physiology’s Cell Physiology journal. Study authors entitled their study, “Role of ion channels in the functional response of conjunctival goblet cells to dry eye”