The effects of aging on corneal and ocular surface homeostasis in mice

Manikkuwadura Eranda Harshan De Silva, Lisa J. Hill, Laura E. Downie, Holly R. Chinnery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE. Aging is a risk factor for dry eye disease. The aim of this study was to investigate if aging is associated with a range of signs of dry eye disease, including tear hyperosmolarity, reduced nerve density, and increased dendritic cell number, in mice. METHOD. Healthy C57BL/6 female mice, aged 2 months (young, n = 10) and 22 months (aged, n = 11) were used. Clinical assessments included corneal sensitivity (Cochet-Bonnet esthesiometry), tear secretion (Phenol red thread test), tear film osmolarity (TearLab osmometer), and corneal thickness (optical coherence tomography). The sum length of the corneal superficial terminals and sub-basal nerves, density of vertical nerve projections, and density and tree area of resident epithelial dendritic cells, were assessed using immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy. RESULTS. Aged mice had significantly higher tear secretion, lower corneal sensitivity, and a thicker corneal stroma but thinner epithelium. There was no significant intergroup difference for tear osmolarity. Aged mice showed a significantly lower sum length of nerves in the superficial terminals and sub-basal plexus, relative to young mice. Dendritic cell density and morphology were similar in both groups. CONCLUSIONS. In mice, aging is associated with higher tear secretion and corneal epithelial thinning, together with lower corneal nerve density and sensitivity. However, aging was not significantly associated with changes to tear osmolarity or dendritic cell density or size, despite a significant reduction in total nerve length. These findings demonstrate that aged mice exhibit some changes to ocular surface parameters that parallel the anomalies evident in dry eye disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2705-2715
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


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