Quercetin and the ocular surface: What we know and where we are going

Tina B. McKay, Dimitrios Karamichos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Flavonoids are a class of plant and fungus secondary metabolites that serve functional roles in protecting against UV-induced oxidative stress, mediating auxin signaling, and promoting microbial defense. Flavonoids are extremely abundant in nature where their potent antioxidant capacity and very low toxicity makes them highly attractive as potential therapeutic agents. In terms of clinical applications, neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved any health claims or drugs related to the use of flavonoids for therapeutic purposes. Quercetin is a common flavonol that has been shown to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fibrotic activities both in vitro and in vivo in various tissues. Recently, the application of quercetin as a therapeutic has been gaining attention in the ocular surface scientific community in the study of dry eye, keratoconus, inflammation, and neovascularization of the cornea. This review will discuss the latest findings and the use of quercetin for the treatment of dystrophies of the ocular surface. Impact statement: The eye represents a small portion of the human body, accounting for one decimal fraction of the anterior body surface. The cornea is an avascular, transparent tissue that acts as a primary barrier against mechanical and infectious damaging agents, protecting the internal structures of the eye. Corneal survival and function are affected by a number of factors including but not limited to injury, trauma, infection, genetics, and environment. Corneal injury, or trauma, often leads to loss of corneal transparency and even blindness. The concept of “curing” corneal opacity has been discussed in published form for over 200 years. Currently, full corneal transplant is the only treatment option. There is a strong interest in developing natural therapeutic products that come with minimum side effects. A novel antioxidant flavonoid, quercetin, has been gaining traction as a potential therapeutic to prevent the injured cornea. This review discusses the potential of this antioxidant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-572
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Quercetin
  • anti-fibrotic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • cornea
  • flavonoids
  • ocular surface
  • wound healing


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