Aberrant inflammation and immune dysregulation are known pathogenic contributors in dry eye disease (DED). Aim of the study was to determine the proportions of immune cell subsets on the ocular surface (OS) of DED patients.
15 healthy controls (22 eyes) and 48 DED subjects (36 eyes with evaporative DED – EDED; 60 eyes with aqueous deficient DED – ADED) were included in the study. Tear break up time (TBUT), Schirmer’s test 1 (ST1), corneal staining (CS) and ocular surface disease index (OSDI) scoring were recorded. OS wash was used to collect immune cells on the OS of study subjects. The cells immunophenotyped using flow cytometry include leukocytes, neutrophils, macrophages, natural killer-NK cells and T cell subsets (CD4; CD8; double positive -DP; gamma delta-γδ and NK T cells).
Significantly higher proportions of leukocytes, neutrophils, CD4 T cells, CD8 T cells, DP T cells and CD4/CD8 T cells ratio were observed in EDED and/or ADED patients. Significantly higher proportions of neutrophils and lower proportions of NK cells were observed in ADED subjects with corneal staining compared to those without and controls. Neutrophils/NK cells ratio was significantly higher in EDED and ADED subjects compared to controls. Correlation analysis revealed pathological relationships between proportions of leukocytes, neutrophils, CD4 T cells and Neutrophil/NK cells ratio with DED clinical parameters.
OS immune cell subset proportion changes in DED patients were associated with DED types and severity. The data suggests the potential for a new generation of therapies targeting immune cells on the ocular surface.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.