The chain length of hyaluronan (HA) determines its physical as well as its physiological properties. Results of clinical research on HA eye drops are not comparable without this parameter. In this article methods for the assessment of the average molecular weight of HA in eye drops and a terminology for molecular weight ranges are proposed. The classification of HA eye drops according to their zero shear viscosity and viscosity at 1000 s−1
shear rate is presented. Based on the gradient of mucin MUC5AC concentration within the mucoaqueous layer of the tear film a hypothesis on the consequences of this gradient on the rheological properties of the tear film is provided. The mucoadhesive properties of HA and their dependence on chain length are explained. The ability of HA to bind to receptors on the ocular epithelial cells, and in particular the potential consequences of the interaction between HA and the receptor HARE, responsible for HA endocytosis by corneal epithelial cells is discussed. The physiological function of HA in the framework of ocular surface homeostasis and wound healing are outlined, and the influence of the chain length of HA on the clinical performance of HA eye drops is illustrated. The use of very high molecular weight HA (hylan A) eye drops as drug vehicle for the next generation of ophthalmic drugs with minimized side effects is proposed and its advantages elucidated. Consequences of the diagnosis and treatment of ocular surface disease are discussed.
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