Teardrops for disease detection? A glimpse at how tears can help trace people’s emotions and health issues

By Vince Andrey Cabudoc

If the eyes are the mirror of one’s soul, then its teardrops may serve as the reflection of one’s health status. 

May it be for victorious moments, gloomy days, or painful events, crying has always been one of the ways to help celebrate success or soothe heavy feelings. But other than people’s emotions, scientists have recently discovered that these eye-produced liquids are a reflection of human health, as they offer a view on what’s happening inside the body.

Photo courtesy of LocalSYR and Daily Sun

In a recent study conducted by a group of researchers and bioengineers, it was discovered that a few drops of tears can help detect health issues, such as eye issues and diabetes.

According to Fei Liu, a biomedical engineer at Wenzhou Medical University in China, their group wanted to explore the potential of tears in terms of disease detection, as it will offer a wider window of opportunity for the health sector to peer into the whole human body and might even make it easier for the public to test their tears at home.

Study co-author Luke Lee, a bioengineer at Harvard Medical School, also agreed and stated that teardrops are still a mystery as “tears express something that we haven’t really explored.”

But before the success, Liu stated that their team encountered hurdles, especially with the amount of tears that they can test. Just like other body fluids such as urine and saliva, tears are also a home for exomes or tiny sacs filled with cellular messages. But with the very limited amount of liquid produced by the eyes compared to other fluid-secreting organs, using the usual techniques and ways to gather enough of these sacs from teardrops would be difficult.

That is why Liu’s team decided to divert their ways and craft another method.

First, they collected the needed tears from the study participants. They then added the tear solution to nanoporous membranes, vibrated it, and allowed it to suck the samples. 

After waiting for a few minutes, the technique separated the exomes from the irrelevant molecules and left the scientists with an easier time analyzing the extracted sacs. They later found out that various types of dry-eye diseases and diabetes progression can be studied with the help of human tears.

On the other hand, the end is still far for these researchers as they still wanted to try the capacity of tears for other diseases and even for depression or emotional stress.



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