Some Tear Cytokines May Act as Diagnostic Biomarkers of Acute Ocular Graft vs Host Disease

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DELPHINE THOUVENOT – Surgeons perform a corneal transplant, on April 2, 2012 at the Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyon, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)
Patients with acute ocular graft vs host have higher levels of several cytokines, a study shows.

Certain tear cytokines may be biomarkers for diagnosing acute ocular graft-versus-host disease (oGVHD), according to a study published in Cornea.

“Our study is the first to enroll patients with acute oGVHD to assess tear cytokine levels as a testing method for the diagnosis and severity grading of acute oGVHD,” the researchers report.

The researchers reviewed records from 10 patients with acute oGVHD (aged 34±15 years 60% men) and18 individuals in the control group (aged 35±13 years 33% men).

The researchers examined the patients’ medical histories, their ocular surfaces, and symptoms. The severity of their symptoms was based on conjunctival scores, Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaire answers, Schirmer test results, and corneal fluorescence staining (CFS). The researchers also conducted microsphere-based immunoassay to calculate cytokines.

Compared with the participants in the control group, patients with acute oGVHD had higher intracellular cell adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β), interleukin 6 (IL-6), interleukin 8 (IL-8), B-cell activating factor (BAFF), and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Interleukin 7 (IL-7) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) levels were higher among the healthy individuals compared with those with acute oGVHD.

The complement system’s C2, C3a, and C5/C5a were significantly different between the patients and the control individuals.

Schirmer test values were negatively associated with IL-1b and GMCSF. The test values were positively associated with EGF and IL-7. TBUT was associated with IL-1b, GM-CSF and C3a. OSDI was associated with IL-6, IL-1b and GMCSF.

Limitations of the study include small sample size.


Qiu Y, Hu B, Peng R, et al. Tear cytokines as biomarkers for acute ocular graft-versus-host disease. Cornea. Published online February 19, 2022. doi:10.1097/ICO.0000000000002959