Artificial tear glands bred by Dutch scientists in laboratories 'cry'

Artificial tear glands bred by Dutch scientists in laboratories ‘cry’

The body’ human tear glands that “shed tears” sound like something out of a sci-fi movie. But researchers from the Hubrecht Institute and UMC Utrecht used stem cells to grow tiny tear glands in Petri dishes to mimic the real thing. They hope these so-called organisms could serve as models for studying how human tear-laden cells produce tears. Their ultimate goal is to better understand and treat diseases such as dry eye disease or autoimmune disease dryness syndrome and tear gland cancer.

“Hopefully, in the future, this type of organ can even be transplanted to patients with incremental tear glands,” said Marie Bannier-Hélaouët, a doctoral student in developmental biology and stem cell research at the Hubrecht Institute. She co-authored a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell Stem Cells, detailing the project.

Organisms are in-body in the form of 3D suspension, from a small number of stem cells eventually multiply to form something similar to a real organ, such as the brain, bladder, or, in this case, the glands located in the upper eyelids.

Tear glands or tear glands constantly provide fluid, which runs across the surface of the eye each time we blink, then flows into small holes in the upper and lower eyelid corners, and then flows along the tear channel into the nose. In addition to showing emotions, these fluids are essential for eye health and lubricate the cornea to help ward off bacteria. Tear gland dysfunction can be annoying, leading to scratching, tingling, or burning sensations and sensitivity to light. But it can also be severe, resulting in corneal bruising or ulcers, even in the most severe cases of blindness.

Tear glands are made up of several cells. The laboratory-grown glands grown by Dutch researchers consist of only one type and “cry” under chemical stimulation, such as epinephrine, a neurotransmitter that sends messages from our neurons to our tear glands.

Mouse tear glands

“Our eyes are always wet, like the tear glands on a plate, ” Bannier-Hélaouët said of the artificial glands. Banner-Hélaouët works in the laboratory of molecular biologist Hans Clevers, which specializes in creating organisms for disease modeling and has previously recreated snake venomous glands and mouse tear glands.

This is not the first time, scientists have used stem cells to create components of the human eye. In 2018, a team at Johns Hopkins University created eye parts to better understand how and why we developed “tricolor vision” — seeing red, blue, and green.

Dutch researchers acknowledge the limitations of their tear glands because they are only made up of one of the main cell types found in the glands. Ultimately, they say, they want to develop a complete tear gland from the wider cells that make up the tear glands, giving them a deeper understanding of how we form tears.