Millions of people suffer from the discomfort of dry eye syndrome. From irritation, redness, and sensitivity to light, dry eyes can make everyday life uncomfortable, to the say the least. Fortunately, researchers from the Fini Lab at Keck Medicine USC may have found that a possible solution to this overwhelmingly common condition could lie in a tear protein called clusterin.
“It is well known that clusterin protects cells and proteins,” said Shinwu Jeong, assistant professor of research ophthalmology in the Institute for Genetic Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the senior author of the study. “A problem in dry eye appears to be that natural clusterin is depleted. We predicted that adding it back would be beneficial. However, the novel mechanism of sealing was unexpected.”
During the study, researchers noted that clusterin helps seal the ocular surface, creating a protective barrier that helps prevent further damage.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is caused by chronic dehydration and poor lubrication of the ocular surface, causing a disruption of the barrier function. Many people develop dry eye as a result of environmental exposure, allergies, eye surgery, medications, or the effects of aging. While it may seem like a mild irritation, the condition can lead to vision loss if the cornea is scratched or damaged if left untreated long enough. Common symptoms include:
- Burning sensation
- Aching feeling
- Red appearance
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Fatigued eyes
Typically, dry eye symptoms are treated with lubricating eye drops or artificial tears, as well as taking breaks from reading or using a computer or smartphone. Additionally, prescription eye medications may help increase tear production or reduce eye inflammation and irritation, but these treatment options fail to prevent the symptoms from returning.
A Promising Solution
Rather than studying the tear production, inflammation, and chemistry that causes or contributes to dry eyes, the USC researchers focused on the protecting the ocular surface barrier. By strengthening the barrier with clusterin, the researchers hope to not only prevent and treat dry eye, but also other corneal disorders in which the ocular surface barrier is damaged. The researchers were the first to examine how the clusterin tear protein functions in dry eye.
Other USC co-authors include faculty members Wendy Mack of preventive medicine, J. Martin Heur, MD, PhD of ophthalmology and Janet Moradian-Oldak of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.
Learn More from USC Roski Eye Institute
If you or someone you love is suffering from dry, irritated eyes or other eye conditions, the USC Roski Eye Institute is committed to providing the solutions to make everyday life easier. To learn more from our renowned ophthalmology team and our treatment options, please do not hesitate to give us a call at (323) 348-1526 or submit a contact form today.
For more information about the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute by making a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at Rebecca.Melville@med.usc.edu.