Tears protect and lubricate the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye and help provide a clear medium through which we see. When human tears break up too quickly, eyes feel gritty, hot and scratchy -- even eyesight can become blurry. For many people the solution has been to use artificial tears, but they're expensive and they don't last as long the real thing.
Associate Professor Millar, from the School of Natural Sciences, says the interaction between the liquid tear and air holds the key to slowing the 'break-up time' of tears.
"At the surface of all liquids, including tears, molecules are spread very thinly," he says.
"A good example of what's happening at the micro level can be seen when you put a small drop of oil into a bowl of water. The oil spreads over the entire surface, so a little bit goes a long way.
"When we looked closely at the thin surface layer of molecules on tears - the 'tear film' - we found proteins previously thought to be confined to the aqueous portion of the tear," he says.
Anyone can experience dry eyes, but the problem is more common when you stare at computer screens, wear contact lenses or after you turn 65. Hot dry conditions in summer, winter heating and taking antihistamines can also aggravate the condition.
Further study by Associate Professor Millar revealed, for the first time, proteins at the surface also played an unexpected role slowing down the break-up rate of tears.
"Proteins on the tear film interact and behave very differently. They lower the surface tension and make tears more stable," he says.
Previously it was believed lipids - released from small holes inside the eyelids - formed an oily barrier, which protected the tears from evaporating too quickly.
Associate Professor Millar's discovery has opened a whole new avenue of research and is the culmination of 14 years of blood, sweat and literally tears.
Over the years, he has collected samples of his own tears to extract compounds needed for experiments.
Already Associate Professor Millar's research, and tears, has helped to develop a synthetic polymer, which has doubled the tear break-up time in animal trials.
"The ultimate goal is to create effective eye drops which work with your natural tears to give lasting relief from dye eyes," Associate Professor Millar says.
Source: Research Australia
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- The New York Times On Drugs - Wrong, Naive Or Misleading?
- Mutation May Cause Early Loss Of Sperm Supply
- Women With Endometriosis Need More Support, Less Judgment
- Olive Oil Destroys Cancer Cells
- The Real Meaning Of The Blue Black White Gold Dress
- Are You Allergic To Marijuana?
- Leukemia-associated Mutations Almost Inevitable As We Age
- "Hi Robert, Excellent expressions!!! I am currently writing a short story which involves a scenario..."
- "The military hires and does some pretty nice pure science work, e.g., Shiva Star USAF to Sandia..."
- "Impressive fellow this Yale man. He's excellent at making declarations, and I'm impressed by his..."
- "People are seeing the dress as ivory and gold, not ivory and black. Sorry dude!..."
- "Confidence in an all-sufficient worldview would have to be sourced in a universal point of reference..."
- Preclinical Proof-of-Principle of MOTS-c and its Role in Metabolic Regulation
- Brain waves and moving toward a unified theory of consciousness control
- Study identifies first-ever human population adaptation to toxic chemical, arsenic
- How much overdetection is acceptable in cancer screening?
- MOTS-c: Newly discovered hormone mimics the effects of exercise