Meibomian gland stem/progenitor cells: The hunt for gland renewal

Xiaowei Yang, Lixing W. Reneker, Xingwu Zhong, Andrew J.W. Huang, James V. Jester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Meibomian glands (MGs) secrete lipid (meibum) onto the ocular surface to form the outermost layer of the tear film. Proper meibum secretion is essential for stabilizing the tear film, reducing aqueous tear evaporation, and maintaining the homeostasis of the ocular surface. Atrophy of MG as occurs with aging, leads to reduction of meibum secretion, loss of ocular surface homeostasis and evaporative dry eye disease (EDED). Since MGs are holocrine glands, secretion of meibum requires continuous self-renewal of lipid-secreting acinar meibocytes by stem/progenitor cells, whose proliferative potential is dramatically reduced with age leading to MG atrophy and an age-related meibomian gland dysfunction (ARMGD). Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating meibocyte stem/progenitor cell maintenance and renewal may provide novel approaches to regenerating MG and treating EDED. Towards that end, recent label retaining cell and lineage-tracing experiments as well as knock-out transgenic mouse studies have begun to identify the location and identities of meibocyte progenitor cells and potential growth and transcription factors that may regulate meibocyte renewal. In addition, recent reports have shown that ARMGD may be reversed by novel therapeutics in mice. Herein, we discuss our current understanding of meibocyte stem/progenitor cells and the hunt for gland renewal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-507
Number of pages11
JournalOcular Surface
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Age-related meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Atrophy
  • Evaporative dry eye disease
  • Homeostasis
  • Meibomian gland
  • Stem cells


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