Goblet Cells: The Last Frontier of the Tear Film

The Goblet Cells produce the precious mucin of the tear film which is important for the health of the eye and to prevent feeling eye pain. 

The ocular surface is covered by two types of epithelium:
1. The conjunctival epithelium 
2. The corneal epithelium 

The conjunctiva is covered with
 mucin-secreting goblet cells mixed with non-goblet epithelial cells. 

If we detect goblet cells on the cornea by confocal microscopy, it means the corneal epithelium is being overthrown by the conjunctiva (conjunctivalization of corneal epithelium) and limbal stem cell deficiency.  

Also if we detect the lack of mucus in the tear because of damaged conjunctival goblet cells, we know there is a diseased tear surface, such as occurs in keratoconjunctivitis sicca, chemical burns, and chronic dry eye. 

Here is more information. 

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Cornea  |   March 2010

An In Vivo Confocal Microscopy and Impression Cytology Analysis of Goblet Cells in Patients with Chemical Burns
 Author Affiliations & Notes
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science March 2010, Vol.51, 1397-1400. doi:10.1167/iovs.09-3886

Purpose.To evaluate goblet cell density (GCD) on conjunctiva and cornea in patients with ocular chemical burns by in vivo laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) and impression cytology (IC) and to explore the correlation between two methods.
Methods.Fifty-four patients (58 eyes) with chemical burn were enrolled in the study. LSCM was applied to identify the goblet cells on conjunctiva and cornea under in vivo conditions, and GCD was analyzed with the customized software. Impression cytology was then performed, and the biopsy specimens were stained to visualize goblet cells in vitro and to measure the density. Statistical software was used to analyze the correlation between GCD taken by two methods.
Results.Conjunctival goblet cells could be discriminated in 55 eyes and 57 eyes by in vivo LSCM and IC. They could be identified on the cornea in nine eyes and eight eyes by two methods. The positive rate of two methods had no significant difference. GCDs on conjunctiva measured by in vivo LSCM and IC were 136 ± 79 cells/mm2 and 121 ± 66 cells/mm2. Median GCDs on cornea detected by two methods were 30 cells/mm2 and 23 cells/mm2, respectively. A significant positive correlation was found between the GCDs on conjunctiva measured by these two methods as well as the GCDs on cornea.
Conclusions.GCD decreased in patients with chemical burns. A positive correlation was found between GCD measured by in vivo LSCM and IC after chemical burns. In vivo LSCM was a promising device to study goblet cells in vivo under pathologic conditions.

. 2017 May; 18(5): 978.
Published online 2017 May 5. doi:  10.3390/ijms18050978
PMCID: PMC5454891

Goblet Cells Contribute to Ocular Surface Immune Tolerance—Implications for Dry Eye Disease

Igor A. Butovich, Academic Editor
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