Immune cells linked to Meibomian gland dysfunction

US researchers have discovered that immune cells flocking to relieve inflamed eyes might also be disrupting the moisturising glands

Immune system cells

An enhanced understanding of the role of infection-fighting neutrophils in dry eye disease could aid diagnosis and treatment, according to researchers from Duke Eye Centre in the US.

Understanding the role of the cells, called neutrophils, could provide new treatment strategies in the management of dry eye disease.

Senior author, Dr Daniel Saban, of Duke Eye Center, highlighted: “The presence of neutrophils in the eye could provide a biomarker to detect the disease or measure its severity.”

Researchers found a correlation between blocked glands and elevated neutrophils in studies of mice that had eye inflammation in the form of allergic eye disease.

In a study involving the human tears of 64 patients, heightened neutrophil levels were most common in people with severe Meibomian gland dysfunction.

Dr Saban emphasised that the neutrophils do not cause the blockage directly but change the glandular cells, causing them to malfunction.

Elevated levels of the neutrophils changed the shape of the glandular cells so that under the microscope it was evident that they had lost their normal plump and round appearance, he added.

“They look more like a shrivelled raisin than a healthy grape,” Dr Saban observed.