The Dry Eye Zone

Rebecca's Blog


Abstract: The Aging Lacrimal Gland

The Aging Lacrimal Gland: Changes in Structure and Function.
Ocul Surf. 2008 Oct;6(4):162-174.
Rocha EM, Alves M, Rios JD, Dartt DA.

ABSTRACT The afferent nerves of the cornea and conjunctiva, efferent nerves of the lacrimal gland, and the lacrimal gland are a functional unit that works cooperatively to produce the aqueous component of tears. A decrease in the lacrimal gland secretory function can lead to dry eye disease. Because aging is a risk factor for dry eye disease, study of the changes in the function of the lacrimal gland functional unit with age is important for developing treatments to prevent dry eye disease. No one mechanism is known to induce the changes that occur with aging, although multiple different mechanisms have been associated with aging. These fall into two theoretical categories: programmed theories of aging (immunological, genetic, apoptotic, and neuroendocrine) and error theories of aging (protein alteration, somatic mutation, etc). Lacrimal glands undergo structural and functional alteration with increasing age. In mouse models of aging, it has been shown that neural stimulation of protein secretion is an early target of aging, accompanied by an increase in mast cells and lipofuscin accumulation. Hyperglycemia and increased lymphocytic infiltration can contribute to this loss of function at older ages. These findings suggest that an increase in oxidative stress may play a role in the loss of lacrimal gland function with age. For the afferent and efferent neural components of the lacrimal gland functional unit, immune or inflammatory mediated decrease in nerve function could contribute to loss of lacrimal gland secretion with age. More research in this area is critically needed.