Potential of FTIR spectroscopy for analysis of tears for diagnosis purposes

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2014 Apr;406(9-10):2367-76. doi: 10.1007/s00216-013-7607-5. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


It has been widely reported that the tear film, which is crucially important as a protective barrier of the eye, undergoes biochemical changes as a result of a wide range of ocular pathology. This tends to suggest the possibility of early detection of ocular diseases on the basis of biochemical analysis of tears. However, studies of tears by conventional methods of biomolecular and biochemical analysis are often limited by methodological difficulties. Moreover, such analysis could not be applied in the clinic, where structural and morphological analyses by, mainly, slit-lamp biomicroscopy remains the recommended method. In this study, we assessed, for the first time, the potential of FTIR spectroscopy combined with advanced chemometric processing of spectral data for analysis of raw tears for diagnosis purposes. We first optimized sampling and spectral acquisition (tears collection method, tear sample volume, and preservation of the samples) for accurate spectral measurement. On the basis of the results, we focused our study on the possibility of discriminating tears from normal individuals from those of patients with different ocular pathologies, and showed that the most discriminating spectral range is that corresponding to variations of CH2 and CH3 of lipid aliphatic chains. We also report more subtle discrimination of tears from patients with keratoconus and those from patients with non-specific inflammatory ocular diseases, on the basis of variations in spectral ranges attributed notably to lipid and carbohydrate vibrations. Finally, we also succeeded in distinguishing tears from patients with early-stage and late-stage keratoconus on the basis of spectral features attributed to protein structure. Therefore, this study strongly suggests that FTIR spectral analysis of tears could be developed as a valuable and cost-saving tool for biochemical-based detection of ocular diseases, potentially before the appearance of the first morphological signs of diseases. Combined with supervised modelling methods and with use of a spectral data base acquired for representative patients, such a spectral approach could be a useful addition to current methods of clinical analysis for improvement of patient care.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / methods*
  • Tears / chemistry*
  • Young Adult


  • Lipids