Revealing the presence of tear extracellular vesicles in Keratoconus

Brenna S. Hefley, Clayton Deighan, Brenda Vasini, Asher Khan, Jesper Hjortdal, Kamran M. Riaz, Yutao Liu, Dimitrios Karamichos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are lipid-bound vesicles that originate from the endosomal system or budded off from the plasma membrane. EVs are involved in cell-cell communication via transporting DNA, RNA, and proteins from one cell to another. Tear EVs (tEVs) have been reported in dry eye, Sjӧgren's Syndrome, and primary open-angle glaucoma. In this study, we sought to investigate the presence of tEVs in relation to keratoconus (KC). Tears were passively collected from the lateral meniscus from 10 healthy (5 males and 5 females) and 9 KC (4 males and 5 females) subjects. Tear samples were processed and analyzed using the ExoView™ R100. Statistical analysis was performed using a Mann-Whitney U non-parametric Student's t-test. All tEVs, in both Healthy and KC subjects, showed a CD9+ dominant tEV cohort independent of sex. A significant decrease in CD63+/CD9+ and CD63+/CD81+/CD9+ was found in the male KC tEVs (p < 0.05), but not in females compared to their healthy counterparts. Neither Healthy nor KC tEVs showed differences in the total number of tEVs, however significant differences were identified between the sexes (p < 0.05), with males having a higher number of tEVs. tEVs diameters ranged from 50 to 200 nm, in both Healthy and KC cohorts, with the majority in the 50–80 nm range suggesting exosome-dominant cohorts. To our knowledge, this is the first time, to date, that tEVs have been isolated and characterized in KCs. While further studies are warranted, the tEVs differences between KC and Healthy subjects suggest a potential role for tEVs in KC pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109242
JournalExperimental eye research
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cornea
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Keratoconus
  • Phenotype
  • Tear
  • Tetraspanin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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