Create human tear glands capable of crying


Scientists develop human lacrimal glands that could help study different eye disorders and in a moment be able to perform transplants

Researchers have managed to create human lacrimal glands miniature capable of producing tears. This development could be essential to study different eye disorders and in a moment to be able to perform transplants.

For its creation the team of scientists used a 3d technology call organoid, structures that allow to imitate the functioning of the organs.


The development of human lacrimal glands it can be instrumental in treating so-called dry eye disease, which can be painful and prone to infection.

‘Lacrimal gland dysfunction, for example in Sjögren’s syndrome, can have serious consequences, such as dry eye or even ulceration of the cornea. This can, in severe cases, lead to blindness, ”explained ophthalmologist Rachel Kalmann.

The research was carried out by the laboratory of biologist Hans Clevers at the University Medical Center in Utrecht (Netherlands). The study was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The tear glands They are located in the upper part of the eye socket and have the function of lubricating and protecting the cornea. However, its location has made it difficult to study in a deeper way.

How do artificial human tear glands work?

In the project the specialists created human glands and of mice in a laboratory dish, but the great challenge was to make them cry. To stimulate the production of tears they exposed the organoids to different chemicals.

‘Organoids are grown using a cocktail of growth promoting factors. We had to modify the usual cocktail so that they were able to cry ”, explained the researcher Marie Bannier-Hélaouët.

tear glands

Because the organoids They do not have ducts, when producing tears they swell. “If there had been a small duct, there would have been drops,” added Clevers.

When the tear glands were transplanted into mice, they were able to mature and developed structures similar to those channels that contained proteins found in the tears.

The researchers will continue working since in addition to human lacrimal glands allow better studies on the eye diseases it is hoped that in the future they can also be transplanted.

“Hopefully, in the future, this type of organoids may even be transplantable to patients with non-functioning lacrimal glands”

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