Gonadotropins in keratoconus: The unexpected suspects

Dimitrios Karamichos, Brayden Barrientez, Sarah Nicholas, Symon Ma, Lyly Van, Sashia Bak-Nielsen, Jesper Hjortdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Keratoconus (KC) is the most common ectatic corneal disease with a significant visual acuity burden. The actual burden is intangible given that KC can disrupt daily activities (reading, driving, and various career paths). Despite decades of research and clinical studies, the etiology, onset, and pathobiology of KC remain a mystery. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of gonadotropins in KC. We recruited 86 KC patients (63 males, 23 female), and 45 healthy controls (22 male, 23 female). Plasma samples were collected and analyzed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Corneal stromal cells from KC and healthy controls, and human epithelial corneal cells, were also investigated for gonadotropin-related markers. Our results show significant alterations of LH/FSH in KCs, compared to healthy controls. Our data also reveals, for the first time, the existence of gonadotropins and their receptors in KC. Our study is the first to demonstrate the role of LH/FSH in KCs, and expand the list of organs known to express gonadotropins, or their receptors, to include the human cornea. Our findings suggest that the human cornea is capable of responding to gonadotropins, and propose an intriguing mechanism for the onset and/or progression of KC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1494
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Gonadotropins
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Keratoconus


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