a new way to cure the disease

THE ESSENTIAL

  • The prevalence of dry eye syndrome varies greatly: between 3.9 and 93% of individuals, according to the studies included in the report of the French Ophthalmology Society of 2015.
  • Dry eye causes visual discomfort. If left unattended it can lead to corneal irritation as well as eye infections.

Dry eye occurs when the eye cannot provide adequate lubrication with natural tears. People with this syndrome can counter its effects with drops. However, this is not always enough: the drugs only work in 10 to 15% of patients. The eyes are then too dry and the cornea is more susceptible to injury.

Work on mice from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, published January 2, 2023 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencehave identified a new target for treatments for dry eye and treating corneal lesions.

Dry eye: a new avenue of care thanks to genes

Dr. Rajendra Apte, principal investigator of the experiment, and his team analyzed the genes expressed by the cells of the cornea of ​​several mice. They studied not only those for dry eye, but also diabetes and other disorders. Scientists have found that in rodents with dry eye syndrome, these cells activate SPARC gene expression. They also highlighted that high levels of SPARC protein (made by stem cells that regenerate the cornea, editor’s note) were associated with better healing of injuries occurring in this part of the eyes.

“We performed single-cell RNA sequencing to identify genes important for maintaining corneal health, and we believe that a few of them, in particular SPARC, may provide potential drug targets for treatment. dry eye and corneal lesions”said Joseph B. Lin, first author of the article and student in Dr. Apte’s laboratory.

Corneal stem cells: other possible therapies

These stem cells have great potential for the treatment of dry eye disease. They are “important and resilient and one of the main reasons why corneal transplantation works so well”, said Dr Apte. They also offer, according to him, other treatment alternatives.

“If the proteins we have identified do not prove to be effective therapies for activating these cells in people with dry eye syndrome, we may be able to transplant modified limbal stem cells to prevent corneal damage in patients with dry eye.”


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