Researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) Cornea Service Director and Harvard Medical School have found that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a fatty acid supplied by diet can significantly decrease dry eye syndrome (DES).
DES is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears, causing them to become dry and irritated.
The team led by Professor Reza Dana, M.D., M. Sc., MPH, at the Schepens Eye Research Institute tested three formulations of fatty acids: 0.2 percent alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) ; 0.2 percent linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) ; and 0.1 percent alpha-linolenic acid combined with 0.1 percent linoleic acid.
An eye drop containing each of the three formulations was topically given to the eye of a mouse once daily and measured the signs of dry eye for 24 hours after the last dose.
The findings revealed that the damage to the cornea was reversed when treated with ALA. It reversed the signs of dry eye syndrome.
"The current study for the first time demonstrates the benefit of topical application of a particular fatty acid in treating the signs of dry eye syndrome at both the molecular and cellular levels," said Dr. Dana
"Using topical formulations of fatty acids to treat dry eye would allow for more flexibility for treatment, including lessening side effects that patients can experience from oral intake of fatty acids.
"Clinical studies with topical fatty acids are being planned, which if successful could alter the method by which this common condition is treated," he added.
The study will be published in the February 2008 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.