02 January 2014
Our eyes are protected by a tear film produced by a lacrimal gland and leaked into our eyes via tear ducts. This gland secretes water, for eyelid lubrication, and various proteins, which both moisturise the eyes and kill off any harmful microorganisms. A malfunction of the lacrimal gland will lead to dry eye disease and consequential damage to the protective tissue lining the front of the cornea. This is extremely uncomfortable for the sufferer and will result in substantial vision loss. Current treatments, including eye drops of artificial tears, are not ideal. However, recent research efforts have led to the development of a fully functioning bioengineered lacrimal gland. When engrafted into the natural lacrimal gland of mice it successfully replaces its function. Here we see time-lapsed development (left to right) of the natural lacrimal gland (top row) and the bioengineered version (bottom row).
Written by Helen Thomas