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Laboratory Sciences
February 1, 2008

Topical Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids for Treatment of Dry Eye

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Schepens Eye Research Institute, Boston, Massachusetts (Drs Rashid, Jin, Barabino, Schaumberg, and Dana and Mss Ecoiffier); Harvard Medical School, Boston (Drs Rashid, Jin, Barabino, Schaumberg, and Dana and Ms Ecoiffier); Department of Neurosciences, Ophthalmology, and Genetics, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy (Dr Barabino); Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston (Dr Schaumberg); and Cornea Service, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston (Dr Dana).

Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(2):219-225. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2007.61

Objective  To study the efficacy of topical application of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) for dry eye treatment.

Methods  Formulations containing ALA, LA, combined ALA and LA, or vehicle alone, were applied to dry eyes induced in mice. Corneal fluorescein staining and the number and maturation of corneal CD11b+ cells were determined by a masked observer in the different treatment groups. Real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to quantify expression of inflammatory cytokines in the cornea and conjunctiva.

Results  Dry eye induction significantly increased corneal fluorescein staining; CD11b+ cell number and major histocompatibility complex Class II expression; corneal IL-1α and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) expression; and conjunctival IL-1α, TNF-α, interferon γ, IL-2, IL-6, and IL-10 expression. Treatment with ALA significantly decreased corneal fluorescein staining compared with both vehicle and untreated controls. Additionally, ALA treatment was associated with a significant decrease in CD11b+ cell number, expression of corneal IL-1α and TNF-α, and conjunctival TNF-α.

Conclusions  Topical ALA treatment led to a significant decrease in dry eye signs and inflammatory changes at both cellular and molecular levels.

Clinical Relevance  Topical application of ALA omega-3 fatty acid may be a novel therapy to treat the clinical signs and inflammatory changes accompanying dry eye syndrome.