Medical

Eye drops could spell the end of cataract surgery

Research suggests that treating cataracts by way of an eye drop mightn't be all that far away
Research suggests that treating cataracts by way of an eye drop mightn't be all that far away
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Research suggests that treating cataracts by way of an eye drop mightn't be all that far away
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Research suggests that treating cataracts by way of an eye drop mightn't be all that far away

People suffering from cataracts aren't exactly flush with options when it comes to restoring their vision. As they grow over time, they start to impede the ability to perform everyday tasks like reading and driving, prompting surgical removal either by scalpel or laser. But new research suggests a less invasive solution might be on the way in the form of a naturally-occurring molecule that can be administered through a simple eye drop.

Scientists had suspected that a molecule called lanosterol may have a role to play in the onset of cataracts. This suspicion was borne out of research at China's Sun Yat-sen University that found two children with inherited cataracts both shared the same genetic mutation that adversely affected the production of lanosterol. This lead researchers to surmise that the molecule might prevent cataract-forming proteins from clumping in the eyes.

The scientists then conducted testing where dogs suffering from naturally occurring cataracts were treated with eye drops containing lanosterol. Following six weeks of treatment, the team observed a reduction in both the size and cloudiness of the cataracts.

"Our study identifies lanosterol as a key molecule in the prevention of lens protein aggregation and points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and treatment," the authors report.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, affecting tens of millions of people around the world. They come about when the highly organized makeup of crystalline proteins in the lens of the human eye is disrupted, causing the proteins to clump together. Though the research is still in its very early stages, the scientists are hopeful they have found a way of preventing this process from occurring.

The team's findings were published in the journal Nature.

Source: Nature via Medical Express

6 comments
xs400
Wow! Finally something interesting in the medical field. Hope we will have a drug to prevent and reverse cataracts soon. Hmm... lanosterol - something I can buy as a food supplement??
sidmehta
Will Gizmag follow up and let us know when it is finally ready for use by all of us? That would be truly helpful.
Grunchy
Sincerely, I'm thinking of planning to have cataract surgery even though I don't have cataracts! Not today, but in a few more years perhaps. The new artificial lens fix the ongoing presbyopia (age-related hardening of the lens) and are shaped to give you better than 20/20 vision, no laser surgery needed. Plus the cataract surgery isn't so invasive, I heard it can take as few as 10 mins per eye. But the surface of the eye has to be cut back, the natural lens removed, and the new artificial lens sewn into place. Supposedly the artificial lens is good for life, as well. See ocumetrics bionic lens from a couple months back, but as far as I can tell, the procedure & replacement lens sounds identical to existing cataract surgery.
pmshah
@Grunchy The old system was to wait until the whole lens was fully opaque and hardened. Not any more. Now they remove the lens, while it is still soft, through a VERY tiny cut and push in the artificial one - which too is soft and highly flexible. However these are really not "for life". From what I was told these need laser cleaning in 5 to 7 years,
Tokenn
My optometrist tells me I have the faintest early stages of cataracts developing [I'm a little over 60]. They were able to do wonderful things for me a few years ago after a spontaneous retinal bleed [laser surgery], and this looks to be more wonderful yet. This cannot come too soon....
Jeffybridge
It's really cool that eye drops are showing to be an effective treatment for cataracts. I always thought that there must be some other treatment besides surgery to help with cataracts. It would be much easier to simply use eye drops rather than removing the cataract and replacing an artificial lens in your eye.