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Secretions that are produced by meibomian glands (also known as meibum) are a major source of lipids for the ocular surface of humans and animals alike. Many animal species have been evaluated for their meibomian lipidomes. However, there have been a very small number of studies in which the animals were compared with humans side by side. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare meibum collected from humans and three typical laboratory animals, canines, mice, and rabbits, for their meibomian lipid composition in order to determine which animal species most resembles humans.
High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas-liquid chromatography (GLC) in combination with mass spectrometry were used to evaluate lipidomes of all tested species.
Among three tested animal species, mice were found to be the closest match to humans in terms of their meibomian lipidomes, while canines were the second closest species. The lipids of these three species were close to each other structurally and, for most lipid classes, quantitatively. The rabbit meibomian lipidome, on the other hand, was vastly different from lipidomes of all other tested species. Interestingly, a previously described class of lipids, acylated omega-hydroxy fatty acids (OAHFA), was found to be present in every tested species as the major amphiphilic component of meibum.
Our side by side comparison of the rabbit and the human meibum demonstrated their vast differences. Thus, the rabbit seems to be a poor animal model of the human tear film, at least when studying its biochemistry and biophysics.