PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to investigate the properties of lactobionic acid (LA) as a possible supplement in artificial tears in in vitro and in vivo experimental model systems. LA is a bionic derivative of a polyhydroxy acid, which consists of one galactose attached by an ether link to a gluconic acid. It is a molecule endowed with several properties that make it an ideal supplement in artificial tears: it is highly hygroscopic and a powerful antioxidant, it is an iron chelator and inhibits matrix metalloprotease activity; it favors wound healing (WH); and it inhibits bacterial growth.METHODS: Promotion of WH by LA, alone or in combination with hyaluronic acid (HA), was investigated in vitro on monolayers of rabbit corneal cells (Statens Seruminstitut) and in vivo after epithelium debridement of rabbit corneas. TGF-β expression and MMP-9 activity in wounded corneas were detected in tears and cornea extracts by western blot or by Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA). Bacterial growth inhibition by LA was checked on Staphylococcus aureus isolates in liquid culture.RESULTS: LA, with or without HA, favors WH in vitro and in vivo. The WH assay on the rabbit cornea showed that 4% LA in association with 0.15% HA also resulted in a blunted increase of MMP-9 and TGF-β in tears and corneal tissue. Finally, the presence of 4% LA resulted in slower growth of cultured bacterial isolates.CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the hypothesis that LA could be a useful supplement to artificial tears to treat ocular surface dysfunction such as dry eye.
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