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Burkhardt S. Schuett, Thomas J. Millar; Lipid Component Contributions to the Surface Activity of Meibomian Lipids. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2012;53(11):7208-7219. doi: 10.1167/iovs.12-10471.
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Meibomian lipid films have very complex physical properties that enable them to be compressed and expanded without collapsing. These properties can be attributed to the self assembly of the individual components, mainly wax and cholesteryl esters (WE and CE). Here, the surface pressure properties of WEs and CEs films have been compared to evaluate their contributions to meibomian lipid films.
Films of different WEs and CEs were spread on a Langmuir trough and their surface pressure area profiles were compared with a particular emphasis on the effects caused by the degree of saturation of the alkyl/alkene chains.
Fully saturated WEs and CEs formed unstable films that collapsed upon compression. Very unsaturated waxes and CEs tended to have two distinct phases, one that reflects interaction with the aqueous subphase, while the second appeared to be with the multilayered bulk of the lipid film. With aging of the films, the WEs tended to move off the surface into the bulk. When meibomian lipid films were seeded with large amounts of WEs, only minor changes could be seen unless the WE was very unsaturated.
These data are consistent with meibomian lipid films having a surfactant layer with a complex bulk layer external to this. It is speculated that the bulk layer contains thermotropic smectic chiral liquid crystals of CEs that are interacting with the WEs. This structure would tend to prevent collapse of the meibomian lipids onto the ocular surface and be very tolerant of lipophilic contaminants.
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