GAIKER-IK4 Technological Centre’s Area of Biotechnology, together with the Opthtalmological Surgery Clinical Institute of Bilbao (ICQO) are co-operating in a research project the aim of which is to develop a diagnostic system, based on immunochromatographic techniques, for the specific recognition of proteic markers for ocular pathologies in eye teardrop samples.
This system, carried out with a swab (similar to pregnancy testing), will initially detect specific markers for ocular pathologies such as conjunctivochalasis and keratoconus and will enable, with a sample of teardrop liquid, the diagnosis of the patient with these disorders.
The ease of use of the system and both its speed and simplicity (a positive testing sign in the form of a coloured band) enables the system to be employed on a daily basis in the clinic. The markers on which the design of this diagnostic system is based are being analysed throughout the research project and validated by means of their recognition by specific antibodies in samples from the tears of patients affected by these pathologies.
In the future, towards the end of 2008, those responsible for the project hope to develop a multiple system, capable of detecting the presence of other ocular pathologies, besides the two already established in the initial phase, and with the aim of launching the diagnostic tests on the market.
Keratoconus or conic cornea condition is a disorder of the human eye which rarely causes blindness but can considerably interfere with vision. This pathology distorts the usual rounded shape of the cornea and forms acone-shaped prominence. It occurs in one in every two thousand persons and generally it coincides with puberty. Keratoconus does not follow any known geographical cultural or social pattern.
Conjunctivochalasis is the relaxation of the bulbar conjunctive capable of creating conjunctive folds over the lower palpebral rim.
Progress of the research
This research project, started in 2004 and due to terminate next year, is based on a comparative study of proteome in samples of teardrops from patients suffering from keratoconus and conjunctivochalasis and, as a control, in samples of healthy patients.
Proteomics is the tool employed in this study to simultaneously analyse all the proteins involved in a pathology and contained in just one sample of teardrops. This set of proteins, known as “proteome”, is what enables the determination of which proteins are affected in their expression in ocular pathology conditions, thus indicating to GAIKER-IK4 researchers which are the potential markers to employ as recognition targets within the diagnostic system being developed.
This approximation is important in as far as just one sample enables the analysis not only of one or two proteins, but of all the proteins contained in the teardrop and that are involved in the evolution of a specific ocular pathology, thus enabling finding various markers, suitable for use in developing multiples diagnosis systems. These new systems will have direct benefits on public health and in future can be linked with innovative technologies such as nano- and microtechnologies, capable of incorporating fragments of biomolecules.