Inflammatory-related proteins in the corneal stroma may increase after long-term soft contact lens use and may be a factor in the pathogenesis of stromal damage, according to a study published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye.
Researchers obtained 96 stroma samples using small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE), and stratified them according to duration of contact lens wear. The team included participants with no contact lens wearing experience (n=24; 67% women; mean age, 25.83 years), less than 5 years of wearing experience (n=24; 83% women; mean age, 27.50 years), between 5 and 10 years of wearing experience (n=24; 83% women; mean age, 26.83 years), and more than 10 years of lens wear experience (n=24; 67% women; mean age, 30.17 years). The investigators used liquid chromatography- tandem to identify and quantify protein profiles, and western blot and immunohistochemistry analysis to determine expression levels of CO1A1, CO4A1, NFKB1, and IL6RB.
The investigators identified 5668 proteins across all samples including 2379 differentially expressed proteins (DEPs), which were significantly more abundant among individuals in all contact lens wearing groups compared with the group that did not have any contact lens wearing experience. The molecular functions of DEPs among individuals in the contact lens wearing groups “were mainly related to translation regulator activity, antigen binding, peptidase inhibitor activity, participation in extracellular matrix (ECM) production, complement activation, and inflammatory responses,” compared with individuals who did not wear contact lenses, according to the report. Sphingolipid, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-protein kinase B, and hypoxia-inducible factor-1 signaling pathways are activated in the human corneal stroma with long-term contact lens use, the report states.
”The results demonstrated that wearing [soft contact lenses] for an extended period could induce oxidative stress in the corneal stroma and activate the inflammatory response by upregulating the expression of key proteins involved in immune and inflammatory processes,” according to the researchers. “Therefore, understanding proteomic changes in the corneal stroma may help understand the effects of [soft contact lens] wear on the cornea and the underlying molecular mechanism(s).”
Deng M, Li M, Liu L. Proteomic profiling of human corneal stroma from long-term contact lens wearers reveals activation of inflammatory responses. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. Published online February 10, 2023. doi:10.1016/j.clae.2023.101820