Have you ever heard that a single postage stamp on the blade of a helicopter can cause it to crash?
We might react with disbelief or disillusionment before we consider the real possibilities. Lots of people believe this is the case, even some helicopter pilots. It is not true. A postage stamp will not cause catastrophic failure to a helicopter. However, the fact that so many people believe it is enough to prove to us all that small things can have huge effects.
Enter the small, but amazingly important lacrimal gland. The moisture produced by this gland keeps our eyes clean and helps them heal from minor injuries. A disorder known as aqueous deficiency dry eye (ADDE), or painful blindness, results from damage or malfunctioning lacrimal glands.
Never heard of it? You’re not alone. But if you’re living with Sjogren’s syndrome, you should be aware of this incredibly painful symptom.
Researchers working with The Scripps Research Institute have recently released information about a study attempting to regenerate damaged lacrimal glands in mice. The process involves introducing progenitor cells, which, similar to stem cells, have abilities to detect and reproduce different types of cells.
The progenitor cells used in the study had already started the process of becoming epithelial (skin) cells. The scientists injected the cells directly in the lobes of the lacrimal gland. The mice involved in the study experienced improvements in tear production. It is not known yet how long the improvements will last.
One of the truly amazing parts of this study and process is that the separation of the progenitor cells is such a difficult process.
The fact that a procedure was developed is remarkable. However, even more remarkable is that the project was led by an undergraduate student during an internship at the research institute. Now, Anastasia Gromova is at the University of California, San Diego, as a graduate student.
With a bit more research and some clinical trials, this may become an approved treatment for people with ADDE and with Sjogren’s.