This feasibility study aimed to investigate the feasibility of collecting and analysing tear proteins from preterm infants at risk of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Additionally, we sought to identify any tear proteins which might be implicated in the pathophysiology of ROP.
Eligible infants were those undergoing ROP screening without other ocular pathology. Tear samples were obtained by Schirmer’s test strips coincident with routine ROP screening. Mass spectrometry was used for proteomic analysis. All participants’ parents gave written, informed consent.
Samples were collected from 12 infants, including two sets of twins. Gestation ranged from 25+6 to 31+1 weeks. Median postnatal age at sampling was 30.5 days (range 19 to 66). One infant developed self-limiting ROP. An adequate sample for protein analysis was obtained from each infant. 701 proteins were identified; 261 proteins identified in the majority of tear samples, including several common tear proteins, were used for analyses.
Increased risk of ROP as determined by G-ROP prediction criteria was associated with an increase in lactate dehydrogenase B (LDH-B) chain protein in tears. Older, more mature infants demonstrated increased concentration of immunoglobulin complexes within their tear samples and two sets of twins in the cohort showed exceptionally similar proteomes, supporting validity of the analysis.
Tear sampling by Schirmer test strips and subsequent proteomic analysis in preterm infants is feasible. A larger study is required to investigate the potential use of tear proteomics in early identification of ROP.
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