Dry eye disease occurs when the eye’s natural tears fail to provide adequate lubrication. People with the common disorder use a variety of drops to replace missing natural tears and lubricate their eyes; however, when the eyes are dry, the cornea is more susceptible to damage.

“We have drugs, but they only work well in about 10% to 15% of patients. In this study, which involves genes that are key to eye health, we have identified potential targets for treatment that look different in dry eyes than in healthy eyes. In the United States alone, about 15 “Millions of people worldwide experience eye pain and blurred vision as a result of complications and injuries associated with dry eye disease, and by targeting these proteins, we may be able to more successfully treat or even prevent these injuries,” said principal investigator Rajendra S. Apte. , MD, Ph.D., Paul A. Cibis, John F. Hardesty, MD, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

The researchers examined genes expressed by the cornea in multiple mouse models of dry eye disease, diabetes and other diseases. They found that in mice with dry eye disease, the cornea activated SPARC gene expression. They also found that higher levels of the SPARC protein were associated with better healing.


The researchers also performed single-cell RNA sequencing to identify genes important for maintaining corneal health. SPARC may provide potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of dry eye disease and corneal damage.

The role of stem cells in corneal damage

These stem cells are important and durable and are the main reason corneal transplants work so well. Although the identified proteins cannot be used as a treatment to activate these cells in people with dry eye syndrome, transplants of limbal stem cells designed to prevent corneal damage in dry eye patients can be performed.


  1. dry eye – (https:www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/dry-eye)

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