Molecule in the pig stomach might contain the solution to dry eyes

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Dry eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common problem among contact lens wearers and non-wearers alike. People who wear contact lenses may be familiar with the irritation that comes from dried-out eyes. It also damages ocular tissue.

Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) found a new type of lubricant based on molecules found in pig stomachs that keeps would-be dry eyes safe and sound. Generally, the surface of the human eye kept well-lubricated by a molecule called mucin MUC5AC. The molecule found in tears as well as the stomach and intestines. It keeps the eye surface nice and moist due to its ability to bind together lots of water.

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Lack of MUC5AC can problematic for those of us who wear contact lenses without a protective lubricant film between the eye and the contact lens, the tissue of the cornea can injure.

mucin MUC5AC

In experiments, the researchers needed large quantities of the molecule, which eliminated human tears as a possible source. Therefore, the team optimized a method for isolating the necessary mucin MUC5AC from the stomachs of pigs. The chemical structure of this pig mucin is similar to the human molecule. The purification procedure must conduct carefully to ensure that the purified molecule retains its characteristic property as a lubricant and does not suffer from chemical changes during the purification process.

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Most of the commercially available mucins are already used for the treatment of oral dryness, have lost exactly this ability, we able to demonstrate this in a series of experiments, TUM’s Oliver Lieleg, who led the work. These commercial mucins are not suitable for treating dry eyes.

The team carried out tests on pig eyes, using pig-derived mucins to lubricate contact lenses, and monitored their performance. These lenses caused no tissue damage, and soaking the contact lens in the mucin solution overnight should be enough to avoid problems associated with dry eyes.

“We showed that the mucin passively adsorbs to the contact lens material and forms a lubricating layer between the contact lens and the cornea,” explains Benjamin Winkeljann, first author of the study.

The researchers say the main benefits of their porcine-inspired approach closely associated with the natural molecule found in tear fluid.

More information: [Advanced Materials Interfaces]

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