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Abstract: Surfactant properties of human meibomian lipids

Surfactant properties of human meibomian lipids.
Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010 Nov 4. [Epub ahead of print]
Mudgil P, Millar TJ.
School of Natural Sciences, University of Western Sydney, Penrith South DC, Australia.

Human meibomian lipids are the major part of the lipid layer of the tear film. Their surfactant properties enable their spread across the aqueous layer and help maintain a stable tear film. The purpose of this study was to investigate surfactant properties of human meibomian lipids in vitro and to determine effects of different physical conditions such as temperature and increased osmolarity, such as occurs in dry eye, on these properties.

Methods: Human meibomian lipids were spread on an artificial tear solution in a Langmuir trough. The lipid films were compressed and expanded to record the surface pressure-area (Π-A) isocycles. The isocycles were recorded under different physical conditions such as high pressure, increasing concentration and size of divalent cations, increasing osmolarity, and varying temperature.

Results: Π-A isocycles of meibomian lipids showed that they form liquid films which are compressible and multilayered. The isocycles were unaffected by increasing concentrations or size of divalent cations and increasing osmolarity in the subphase. Temperature had a marked effect on the lipids. Increase in temperature caused lipid films to become fluid, an expected feature, but decrease in temperature unexpectedly caused expansion of lipids and an increase in pressure suggesting enhanced surfactant properties.

Conclusions: Human meibomian lipids form highly compressible, non-collapsible, multilayered liquid films. These lipids have surfactants that allow them to spread across an aqueous subphase. Their surfactant properties are unaffected by increasing divalent cations or hyperosmolarity but are sensitive to temperature. Cooling of meibomian lipids enhances their surfactant properties.