Effect of human milk as a treatment for dry eye syndrome in a mouse model

Mol Vis. 2016 Sep 9:22:1095-1102. eCollection 2016.


Purpose: Dry eye syndrome (DES) affects millions of people worldwide. Homeopathic remedies to treat a wide variety of ocular diseases have previously been documented in the literature, but little systematic work has been performed to validate the remedies' efficacy using accepted laboratory models of disease. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of human milk and nopal cactus (prickly pear), two widely used homeopathic remedies, as agents to reduce pathological markers of DES.

Methods: The previously described benzalkonium chloride (BAK) dry eye mouse model was used to study the efficacy of human milk and nopal cactus (prickly pear). BAK (0.2%) was applied to the mouse ocular surface twice daily to induce dry eye pathology. Fluorescein staining was used to verify that the animals had characteristic signs of DES. After induction of DES, the animals were treated with human milk (whole and fat-reduced), nopal, nopal extract derivatives, or cyclosporine four times daily for 7 days. Punctate staining and preservation of corneal epithelial thickness, measured histologically at the end of treatment, were used as indices of therapeutic efficacy.

Results: Treatment with BAK reduced the mean corneal epithelial thickness from 36.77±0.64 μm in the control mice to 21.29±3.2 μm. Reduction in corneal epithelial thickness was largely prevented by administration of whole milk (33.2±2.5 μm) or fat-reduced milk (36.1±1.58 μm), outcomes that were similar to treatment with cyclosporine (38.52±2.47 μm), a standard in current dry eye therapy. In contrast, crude or filtered nopal extracts were ineffective at preventing BAK-induced loss of corneal epithelial thickness (24.76±1.78 μm and 27.99±2.75 μm, respectively), as were solvents used in the extraction of nopal materials (26.53±1.46 μm for ethyl acetate, 21.59±5.87 μm for methanol). Epithelial damage, as reflected in the punctate scores, decreased over 4 days of treatment with whole and fat-reduced milk but continued to increase in eyes treated with nopal-derived materials.

Conclusions: Whole and fat-reduced human milk showed promising effects in the prevention of BAK-induced loss of corneal epithelial thickness and epithelial damage in this mouse model. Further studies are required to determine whether human milk may be safely used to treat dry eye in patients.