New research holds promise for treatments for a range of women's health issues

April 18, 2013

Natural lubricants play an important role in health, including a well-known effect to help prevent osteoarthritis in knee and ankle joints. However, much is still unknown about their role and function in other areas of the body. Researchers for the first time have discovered that the surface of the eye produces "lubricin," the same substance that protects the joints, and have explained its role in this sensory organ. These findings provide new hope for the millions suffering from dry eye disease and complications from contact lens wear and refractive surgery. Dry eye disease is one of the most frequent causes of patient visits to eye care practitioners and occurs predominantly in women.

In a JAMA Ophthalmology paper published online April 18, David Sullivan, Ph.D., of Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Institute in Boston, Mass., and Tannin Schmidt, Ph.D., at the University of Calgary in Canada, examined human tissues and cells to determine whether the glycoprotein lubricin is produced by the (the anterior segment, or front part of the eye, which includes the cornea and conjunctiva).

Their research demonstrated that ocular surface cells produce lubricin, which prevents friction between the cornea and conjunctiva, reducing shear stress (such as during eye blinking) to prevent at the ocular surface. Furthermore, they demonstrated that lubricin deficiency in the eye contributes to corneal damage.

Findings from the study also demonstrate the presence of lubricin mRNA (the genetic material necessary to create lubricin) in a number of exocrine, urinary and (salivary, bladder, cervical/vaginal & uterine), suggesting that lubricin could play a similar role throughout the body.

"These novel findings hold promise not only for treatment of conditions such as dry , or complications from contact lens wear and refractive surgery," said lead author Dr. David Sullivan, who is also the Founder of the Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society. "They are also encouraging for the possible treatment of postmenopausal vaginal atrophy and other disorders that occur more commonly in women, such as xerostomia and interstitial cystitis."

"This is a new and exciting area of research for my laboratory," said Dr. Tannin Schmidt, who is jointly appointed in Kinesiology and Biomedical Engineering, "I am excited to see where this discovery leads us in terms of potential new therapies as well as novel contact lens materials that help improve biocompatibility and extend the length of time you can wear your lenses."

Explore further: Scleral lenses benefit patients with corneal irregularities

Related Stories

Scleral lenses benefit patients with corneal irregularities

October 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A UC Davis Health System Eye Center study found that scleral lenses, which rest beyond the limits of the cornea and cover the white part of the eye (sclera), were a good alternative for patients with corneal ...

Scientists 'see' the early cellular cause of dry eye disease for the first time

May 31, 2011
If you are one of the millions of people around the world who struggle with dry eye disease, good news is on the way. A new research discovery published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology offers hope for new drugs that treat ...

Team discovers new strategy to effectively treat, prevent osteoarthritis

March 25, 2013
Think new discoveries are the bee's knees? This one is even better—this research out of Rhode Island Hospital is the mice's knees. Researchers have found that adding lubricin, a protein that our bodies naturally produce, ...

Recommended for you

Combination of type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea indicates eyesight loss within four years

July 4, 2017
Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered that patients who suffer from both Type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnoea are at greater risk of developing a condition that leads to blindness within an average ...

Nearly 60% of pinkeye patients receive antibiotic eye drops, but they're seldom necessary

June 28, 2017
A new study suggests that most people with acute conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, are getting the wrong treatment.

Magnetic implants used to treat 'dancing eyes'

June 26, 2017
A research team has successfully used magnets implanted behind a person's eyes to treat nystagmus, a condition characterised by involuntary eye movements.

Drug shows promise against vision-robbing disease in seniors

June 21, 2017
An experimental drug is showing promise against an untreatable eye disease that blinds older adults—and intriguingly, it seems to work in patients who carry a particular gene flaw that fuels the damage to their vision.

Reproducing a retinal disease on a chip

June 15, 2017
Approximately 80% of all sensory input is received via the eyes, so suffering from chronic retinal diseases that lead to blindness causes a significant decrease in the quality of life (QOL). And because retinal diseases are ...

New gene therapy for vision loss proven safe in humans

May 16, 2017
In a small and preliminary clinical trial, Johns Hopkins researchers and their collaborators have shown that an experimental gene therapy that uses viruses to introduce a therapeutic gene into the eye is safe and that it ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.