The lacrimal gland is essential for hydration and protection of the eye, and disruption of the production, formation, or release of tear fluid leads to dry eyes, causing discomfort and damage to the surface of the eye.
In this regard, a Dutch team managed to grow a miniature human lacrimal gland in the laboratory that is able to cry like real eyes.
The team transplanted the organ parts to investigate how certain cells in the lacrimal glands allow us to keep our eyes clean and moist, in addition to crying.
The lacrimal glands, located in the upper part of the eye socket, secrete tear fluid, which is made up of water, proteins, fats and electrolytes.
However, the lacrimal glands can fail to function properly in people with certain conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, that also affect saliva production.
According to the site “RT”, the researchers explained, “This could have serious consequences,” including dry eyes, corneal ulceration, and in severe cases, it may lead to blindness.
The team hopes that their work will ultimately lead to the ability to have lab-grown lacrimal glands transplanted into such patients as a treatment for their condition.
It can also be used to test new drug-based treatments for dry eye disease.
“What surprised us was that at least 5% of the adult population suffers from dry eye disease,” said the author and biologist, Euric Post, of the Utrecht-based Hobrecht Institute.
He explained that this condition is most often related to a defect in the production of tears by the lacrimal gland.
“But treatment options are limited because there was no complete understanding of the biology and there was no reliable and long-term in vitro model for studying the tear gland,” he added.
However, the growth of these organelles should allow new studies to be conducted into exactly how the glands function and the cells that make them up.
“We hope, in the future, that this type of organelles will be implantable for patients with non-functioning lacrimal glands,” said Marie Pannier-Hlaweit, a stem cell researcher from the Hobrecht Institute.
In their study, the team developed miniature copies of the lacrimal glands of mice and humans in petri dishes in the laboratory.
However, after they implanted the miniature tear glands, the researchers explained, the real challenge came in getting them to actually cry.
“Organic organisms are grown using a mixture of growth-promoting factors,” Pannier-Halawit said.
“We had to adjust the mix of factors in which the organelles grow to become the mature cells in the lacrimal glands that are able to cry,” she added.
After finding the right combination of growth factors, the team found that they could induce organelles to cry by applying something called noradrenaline, the neurotransmitter that leads to tear production in humans.
“Our eyes are always wet, and so are the tear glands in the plate. The way organelles cry in response to chemical stimuli is similar to the way people cry in response to pain, for example,” Panier-Halawit said.
And when it’s turned on, the organelles shed their tears into the organ, which is called the lumen, causing it to swell just like a water balloon.
By measuring the size of the swollen organelles, the researchers were able to determine the rate at which tears were produced and excreted.
Dr. Post noted, “Other experiments revealed that different cells in the lacrimal gland make different components of tears.”
These cells respond differently to the stimuli that cause tears. The researchers also conducted experiments with human organic cells implanted in the lacrimal glands of a mouse, and found that two weeks after the procedure, the organelles formed tear duct-like structures that lasted for at least two months.
In addition, the team discovered the presence of tear proteins inside the channels formed by the transplanted cells.
#Scientists #implant #human #glands #capable #crying