Method Development for Omics Analyses using Schirmer Strips

Curr Eye Res. 2024 Apr 3:1-9. doi: 10.1080/02713683.2024.2335271. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: The aim of this article was to investigate whether Schirmer strips gathered during clinical dry eye examinations can be prepared for omics analyses in a standardized way, to adjust for variations in tear volume and enable two separate omics analyses from the same sample. In addition, the intention was to investigate whether fluorescein dye instillation in the eyes gave bias effects on metabolomic analysis.

Methods: Twelve samples from six individuals, with normal or reduced tear production, were collected. Half of the samples were harvested after instillation of fluorescein in the eye. Each strip was divided in half along the length and prepared with a new method for extracting tear content from the Schirmer strip. The new method was established to compensate for different dilutions of metabolites in varying Schirmer strip wetting levels when using identical extraction volume for all samples. Metabolomic data were compared in samples with and without fluorescein dye and Schirmer strips ranging from 1 to 35 mm wetting levels using a global LC-MS method.

Results: All samples were successfully analyzed with an average of ∼350 relevant features detected per sample after using both positive and negative electrospray ionization mode, despite low tear volumes in some samples and that only one half of the Schirmer strips were used. Principal component analysis plots and heatmaps revealed no bias effects of fluorescein dye presence or different Schirmer strip values when using the proposed method.

Conclusion: A high number of relevant metabolomic features can be extracted from longitudinally cut halves of Schirmer strips, which may enable analyses with more than one omics modality from the same sample. With the pre-analytical method described, Schirmer strips can be used for metabolomic analyses even in cases of very low or high tear volume with or without fluorescence.

Keywords: Metabolomics; dry eye disease; methodology; omics; tear film sampling.