Nanomedicine : nanotechnology, biology, and medicine

Nanoscale phase dynamics of the normal tear film.

PMID 20599525


The tear film is a dynamic multilayered structure. The interactions and the interfacial dynamics between the layers that occur during a blink cycle must be such that they allow for maintenance of a stable tear film. Attempts to understand these dynamics have been limited by the techniques and biomarkers used. Quantum dots (qdots) offer a new potential to monitor the dynamics of the tear film layers in vivo without the drawbacks of previously used methodologies. Indium phosphide-gallium qdots were used to differentially assess the dynamics of the lipid and aqueous layers of the tear film in real time. In the aqueous, qdots dispersed to form a stable local region that was swept away into the upper and lower menisci during a blink. They did not redisperse onto the ocular surface but were progressively removed from the menisci through the puncta. Some of these qdots adhered to the mucin layer on the ocular surface in a meshlike pattern and remained there for five to six blinks before they were removed. The organic qdots dispersed quickly but patchily over the whole outer surface of the tear film. They also strongly marked both eyelid margins and slowly dispersed onto the skin and eyelashes and not through the puncta. Some were trapped in the menisci as blobs that rolled along the meniscus. These data support the view of a distinct three-layered tear film: an inner mucin layer attached to the epithelial cells, a fluid aqueous layer, and an outer viscoelastic lipid layer.