Research Highlights

A Chance Discovery: Antibiotics that Only Stain Goblet Cells

2020-06-17 388

[Professor Kihean Kim’s Research Team Wins ‘Best of Best’ from ASCRS]


Dr. Röntgen coincidentally photographed his wife’s hand while experimenting with cathode rays in a dark lab and saw her finger bones with a ring on the photographic plate. This was the accidental discovery of the world’s first X-ray. Recently, a team of Korean researchers serendipitously stumbled upon antibiotics that only stain goblet cells.

Professor Kihean Kim, Seonghan Kim and Jungbin Lee of POSTECH’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Director Myoung Joon Kim of Renew Seoul Eye Center (affiliate faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering) discovered that Moxifloxacin, a commonly used ophthalmic antibiotic, fluorescently stains the cells in the body, especially the conjunctival goblet cells. The research team has been developing high-contrast imaging method that could be used in people by applying these findings.

Professor Kim’s team submitted the research findings in a film titled ‘The Serendipitous Use of Topical Moxifloxacin” to the American Society of Cataract Refractive Surgery’s ASCRS Film Festival in May.

The film showed additional research results such as high-resolution cell video applying the Moxifloxacin-based cell imaging method and the imaging of the goblet cells. In particular, the behind-the-scenes story on the discovery of the antibiotics as a fluorescent cell-staining substance caught the judges’ attention.

The film was selected as the winner in the Special Interest category and also as ‘best of the best,’ a title presented to only two teams.

Professor Kim commented, “The antibiotics-based imaging method introduced in the film is a non-invasive, high-contrast cell imaging technique.” He continued, “I believe we received the prize because the method can be utilized clinically, as an imaging guide for cancer surgeries and especially in mucous layer test for patients with dry eye syndrome.”

ASCRS is one of the largest societies of ophthalmic diseases that aims to advance the knowledge of the medical staff and science for ophthalmic treatment by providing and promoting clinical and practical management training and up-to-date treatment by working with patients, the government and the medical community.