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Water-evaporation reduction by duplex films: Application to the human tear film

  • Author(s): Cerretani, Colin F
  • Ho, Nghia H
  • Radke, C.J.
  • et al.
Abstract

Water-evaporation reduction by duplex-oil films is especially important to understand the physiology of the human tear film. Secreted lipids, called meibum, form a duplex film that coats the aqueous tear film and purportedly reduces tear evaporation. Lipid-layer deficiency is correlated with the occurrence of dry-eye disease; however, in-vitro experiments fail to show water-evaporation reduction by tear-lipid duplex films. We review the available literature on water-evaporation reduction by duplex-oil films and outline the theoretical underpinnings of spreading and evaporation kinetics that govern behavior of these systems. A dissolution–diffusion model unifies the data reported in the literature and identifies dewetting of duplex films into lenses as a key challenge to obtaining significant evaporation reduction.

We develop an improved apparatus for measuring evaporation reduction by duplex-oil films including simultaneous assessment of film coverage, stability, and temperature, all under controlled external mass transfer. New data reported in this study fit into the larger body of work conducted on water-evaporation reduction by duplex-oil films. Duplex-oil films of oxidized mineral oil/mucin (MOx/BSM), human meibum (HM), and bovine meibum (BM) reduce water evaporation by a dissolution–diffusion mechanism, as confirmed by agreement between measurement and theory. The water permeability of oxidized-mineral-oil duplex films agrees with those reported in the literature, after correction for the presence of mucin.

We find that duplex-oil films of bovine and human meibum at physiologic temperature reduce water evaporation only 6–8% for a 100-nm film thickness pertinent to the human tear film. Comparison to in-vivo human tear-evaporation measurements is inconclusive because evaporation from a clean-water surface is not measured and because the mass-transfer resistance is not characterized.

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