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Mark Brinton, Andrea L. Kossler, Zara M. Patel, James Loudin, Manfred Franke, Christopher N. Ta, Daniel Palanker; Enhanced Tearing by Electrical Stimulation of the Anterior Ethmoid Nerve. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(4):2341-2348. doi: 10.1167/iovs.16-21362.
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Electrical neurostimulation enhances tear secretion, and can be applied to treatment of dry eye disease. Using a chronic implant, we evaluate the effects of stimulating the anterior ethmoid nerve on the aqueous, lipid, and protein content of secreted tears.
Neurostimulators were implanted beneath the nasal mucosa in 13 New Zealand white rabbits. Stimulations (2.3–2.8 mA pulses of 75–875 μs in duration repeated at 30–100 Hz for 3 minutes) were performed daily, for 3 weeks to measure changes in tear volume (Schirmer test), osmolarity (TearLab osmometer), lipid (Oil-Red-O staining), and protein (BCA assay, mass spectrometry).
Stimulation of the anterior ethmoid nerve in the frequency range of 30 to 90 Hz increased tear volume by 92% to 133% (P ≤ 0.01). Modulating the treatment with 50% duty cycle (3 seconds of stimulation repeated every 6 seconds) increased tear secretion an additional 23% above continuous stimulation (P ≤ 0.01). Tear secretion returned to baseline levels within 7 minutes after stimulation ended. Tear film osmolarity decreased by 7 mOsmol/L, tear lipid increased by 24% to 36% and protein concentration increased by 48% (P ≤ 0.05). Relative abundance of the lacrimal gland proteins remained the same, while several serum and corneal proteins decreased with stimulation (P ≤ 0.05).
Electrical stimulation of the anterior ethmoid nerve increased aqueous tear volume, reduced tear osmolarity, added lipid, and increased the concentration of normal tear proteins. Human studies with an intranasal stimulator should verify these effects in patients with aqueous- and lipid-deficient forms of dry eye disease.
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