Metabolomics and lipidomics approaches in human tears: A systematic review

Surv Ophthalmol. 2022 Jul-Aug;67(4):1229-1243. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2022.01.010. Epub 2022 Jan 31.


The human tear film is at the interface between the ocular surface and the external environment. Although investigation has been hindered by its small volume, improvements in preanalytical and analytical methods have allowed the omics approach to represent an innovative biomarker search strategy. There is still a significant lack of standardization, representing a barrier for performing between-studies comparisons and transferring experimental findings into clinical use and trials. We summarize the preanalytical and analytical procedures, describe the biomarkers that can be found using the metabo-lipidomics approach, and provide our expert opinion for omics investigations in human tears. For this systematic review of 38 studies, we searched PubMed by combining Boolean operators with the following keywords: tear, metabolomic, lipidomic, -omics. The human tear metabo-lipidome has been well-characterized in normal individuals using high-resolution liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. Lipid and metabolite profiles were influenced by ocular (e.g., dry eye disorders; Meibomian gland dysfunction; contact lens wear; glaucoma; keratoconus; pterygium) and systemic conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis). Investigating the tear metabo-lipidome could improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of both ocular and systemic diseases, but also provide diagnostic as well as prognostic biomarkers.

Keywords: Lipidomics; Liquid chromatography; Mass spectrometry; Metabolomics; Nuclear magnetic resonance; Ocular surface; Omics; Proteomics; Tears.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Dry Eye Syndromes* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipidomics*
  • Meibomian Glands / metabolism
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Tears / metabolism


  • Biomarkers