by Nadia Zakaria, Sigi Van Grasdorff, Kristien Wouters, Jos Rozema, Carina Koppen, Eva Lion, Nathalie Cools, Zwi Berneman, Marie-José Tassignon
Corneal neovascularization results from the encroachment of blood vessels from the surrounding conjunctiva onto the normally avascular cornea. The aim of this study is to identify factors in human tears that are involved in development and/or maintenance of corneal neovascularization in humans. This could allow development of diagnostic tools for monitoring corneal neovascularization and combination monoclonal antibody therapies for its treatment. In an observational case-control study we enrolled a total of 12 patients with corneal neovascularization and 10 healthy volunteers. Basal tears along with reflex tears from the inferior fornix, superior fornix and using a corneal bath were collected along with blood serum samples. From all patients, ocular surface photographs were taken. Concentrations of the pro-angiogenic cytokines interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein 1 (MCP-1) and Fas Ligand (FasL) were determined in blood and tear samples using a flow cytometric multiplex assay. Our results show that the concentration of pro-angiogenic cytokines in human tears are significantly higher compared to their concentrations in serum, with highest levels found in basal tears. Interestingly, we could detect a significantly higher concentration of IL- 6, IL-8 and VEGF in localized corneal tears of patients with neovascularized corneas when compared to the control group. This is the first study of its kind demonstrating a significant difference of defined factors in tears from patients with neovascularized corneas as compared to healthy controls. These results provide the basis for future research using animal models to further substantiate the role of these cytokines in the establishment and maintenance of corneal neovascularization.