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Mucin: component of gastric mucosa against dry eyes
Many people spend a large part of their working time on the computer. Sitting at the desk all day and staring at the screen often causes eye problems. In the long term, this can also damage the eye tissue. Researchers have now found that a natural mucus component can help here.
Dry eyes due to long screen work
If you work on the computer for several hours every day, your eyes will dry up at some point. Drops against the complaints are commercially available, but the remedies often have no effect. In addition, they should always be used with caution, as the preservatives contained can damage the eye. Researchers from Munich now report what could help those affected: A component of the gastric mucosa.
Dry eyes and rubbing contact lenses after a long day at the computer are not only painful, but also permanently damage the eye tissue.
A technical mucin component, a so-called mucin, could help, reports the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in a message.
A team from TUM was able to show in a study that contact lenses coated with mucins from the gastric mucosa of pigs did not cause any damage to the eye.
Mucins are molecules that are able to bind water and thus form a natural lubricant. Not only do our tears contain such mucins, they also occur in the protective mucus layer in the stomach or intestines.
Without a protective sliding film, corneal tissue is injured
Patients who suffer from dry eyes usually lack this molecular lubricant in the tear fluid: the mucin MUC5AC.
According to the experts, the absence of MUC5AC can be particularly problematic when wearing contact lenses: without the protective lubricant film between the eye and lens, the corneal tissue is injured.
The scientists headed by Prof. Oliver Lieleg, professor of biomechanics and head of the working group "Biopolymers and Bio-Interfaces" at the Munich School of BioEngineering, therefore had the idea to apply the missing mucin directly to the lens.
Mucin coating prevents tissue damage
The researchers needed larger amounts of the molecule for the experiments. Human tears thus turned out to be a possible source. The team therefore further developed a process by which they isolated the mucin from the stomachs of pigs.
The structure of this pig mucin is very similar to that of the human molecule MUC5AC. It was particularly important that the substance retains its characteristic properties as a lubricant and does not change chemically as a result of the cleaning process.
"Most of the commercially available mucins that are currently e.g. used to treat dryness in the mouth have lost this ability, which we have been able to show in several experiments. You could also spray water into your mouth. Therefore, these mucins cannot help with dry eyes, ”said Lieleg.
In experiments on a prepared pig's eye, they then tested how their specially isolated mucin works on contact lenses. The research team was able to demonstrate microscopically that there was no tissue damage from the lenses when they were coated with mucin.
"We found that the mucin adheres to the lens material on its own and therefore keeps it lubricious," says Benjamin Winkeljann, first author of the study.
From the scientists' point of view, it would therefore be sufficient to store the contact lenses in a mucin solution overnight, for example.
Permanent protection without dripping
Coating with mucin offers several advantages: Drugs that are already on the market for dry eyes primarily use hyaluronic acid. In contrast to mucin, this does not occur in human tear fluid.
While hyaluronic acid is introduced into the eye as a drop and therefore has to be used several times throughout the day, mucin adheres directly to the lens and thus protects the eye permanently.
In the next steps, the mucin from pork stomachs will be tested further so that it can soon be used in humans. (ad)