In a research initiative at the lab of Hans Clevers and UMC Utrecht, researchers attempted to grow mini human tear glands that actually cry. The organoids help to study the mechanism behind the ability of certain cells in the human tear gland to produce tears or why they fail to do so. In fact, scientists can use the model to detect new treatment options for patients that have tear gland disorders such as dry eye disease.
Meanwhile, scientists hope that in the future organoids can even be transferred into patients who have non-functioning tear glands.
The findings of the study was recently published in Cell Stem Cell.
Anatomically, tear gland is located in the upper area of the eye socket. It secrets tear fluid, which is essential for lubrication and nutrition of the cornea and has antibacterial elements. “The dysfunction of the tear gland can lead to various ailments, including dryness in the eye or even ulceration of the cornea,” stated the researcher of the project. In severe cases, this can lead to blindness.
However, so far, a reliable study to understand exact biology of the working of the tear gland was lacking and a reliable model to understand this unknown. Therefore, researchers at the Hubrecht Institute present the first model to study the mechanism that makes tear gland cry and what can go wrong.
To understand this, researchers employed organoid technology to grow mini version of the human and mouse tear gland in a culture. Meanwhile, the organoids in the culture are 3D structures that imitate the function of actual organs. After this, the challenge for the researchers was to make the organoids cry.