Novel Lipids of the Rabbit Harderian Gland Improve Tear Stability in an Animal Model of Dry Eye Disease

Igor A. Butovich, Seher Yuksel, Brian Leonard, Tom Gadek, Arthur S. Polans, Daniel M. Albert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Instability of the tear film leads to evaporative dry eye disease (EDED), but the Harderian gland in some terrestrial vertebrates may produce novel lipids that stabilize the tear film and protect against dry eye. Here, the nonpolar lipids in the Harderian gland and tears of the rabbit but absent in human tears were identified and tested in preclinical studies to determine whether they could treat severe EDED. Methods: Lipids were identified primarily by atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry (MS) and fragmentation MS/MS. An identified lipid was synthesized and formulated as an emulsion and as a cyclodextrin (CD) clathrate. Following doses with test agents and controls, tear film breakup time (TBUT), tear production, corneal fluorescein staining, macrophage infiltration, and goblet cell survival were measured using standard tests at 0, 2 and 4 weeks in an animal model of EDED. Results: The lipid emulsion increased TBUT (P < 0.01) and tear production (P < 0.05), while it decreased corneal staining (P < 0.01) compared to controls. The lipid CD formulation increased TBUT (P < 0.05) and tear production (P < 0.05) but had no significant effect on the remaining test parameters. There were no differences in macrophage infiltration and conjunctival impression cytology scores between the formulations and their vehicle controls. Conclusions: Lipids in the rabbit Harderian gland and tears differ from those identified in human meibum and tears. These unique rabbit lipids may confer a protective effect against EDED and, as supplements to human tears, fulfill a similar role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-555
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Harderian gland
  • dry eye disease
  • lipid analysis
  • preclinical model
  • tear film

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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