Lipoidal species in ocular spoilation processes
Tear component deposition onto contact lenses is termed `spoilation' and occurs due to the interaction of synthetic polymers with their biological fluid environment. Spoilation phenomena alter the physico-chemical properties of hydrophilic contact lenses, diminishing the optical properties of the lens; causing discomfort and complications for the wearer. Eventually these alterations render the lens unwearable. The primary aim of this interdisciplinary study was to develop analytical techniques capable of analysing the minute quantities of biological deposition involved, in particular the lipid fraction. Prior to this work such techniques were unavailable for single contact lenses. It is envisaged that these investigations will further the understanding of this biological interfacial conversion. Two main analytical techniques were developed: a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) technique and fluorescence spectrofluorimetry. The HPLC method allows analysis of a single contact lens and provided previously unavailable valuable information about variations in the lipid profiles of deposited contact lenses and patient tear films. Fluorescence spectrophotofluorimetry is a sensitive non-destructive technique for observing changes in the fluorescence intensity of biological components on contact lenses. The progression and deposition of tear materials can be monitored and assessed for both in vivo and in vitro spoiled lenses using this technique. An improved in vitro model which is comparable to tears and chemically mimics ocular spoilation was also developed. This model allows the controlled study of extrinsic factors and hydrogel compositions. These studies show that unsaturated tear lipids, probably unsaturated fatty acids, are involved in the interfacial conversion of hydrogel lenses, rendering them incompatible with the ocular microenvironment. Lipid interaction with the lens surface then facilitates secondary deposition of other tear components. Interaction, exchange and immobilisation (by polymerisation) of the lipid layer appears to occur before the final and rapid growth of more complex, insoluble discrete deposits, sometimes called `white spots'.