Cataracts, or cloudy lenses, happens when lens proteins known as crystallins begin to twist into the wrong conformation, then clump together. Crystallins, which is a major constituent of the lens’ fiber cells, which normally help in keeping the lens transparent by preventing proteins from forming aggregates. Aggregates diffract incoming light by acting as molecular “chaperones” that maintain the solubility of lens proteins.
Cataracts is the leading cause of blindness and the only option for those affected is surgery, which is an invasive and expensive procedure that’s not available to many in the developing world. But, maybe we are not too far off from changing that, as another study is looking into the possibility of using eye drops as a viable alternative, thereby, offering a practical treatment to the 20 million or so people that were affected worldwide.
Researchers in the USA have developed a new drug that can be delivered directly into the eye through the use of an eye dropper to dissolve and shrink down cataracts. Cataracts are one of the known leading cause of blindness in people.
Scientists in California are studying a naturally occurring steroid known as lanosterol that could be used one day for treating cataracts. It may be possible to simply use lanosterol in the form of a topical eye drop in reducing cataract development.
The cost of lanosterol drops would be lower than the cost of cataract surgery. Millions of dollars are being spent by insurance companies, patients, and government health care to pay ophthalmologists and co-managing optometrists for removing cataracts surgically. Lanosterol eye drops could very well be a safe, non-invasive alternative to cataract surgery in patients that have moderate forms of cataracts.
Cataracts are usually treated using cataract surgery. Cataract surgery involves the extraction of the cataract and inserting a new, clear lens implant in its place. This procedure is usually performed under local anesthesia on outpatient basis, which takes less than 1 hour in most cases.
During a cataract surgery, an ophthalmologist removes the cataract using laser or ultrasound, then inserts a new intraocular lens implant. Recovery from this cataract surgery normally takes about 8 weeks. During this recovery period, you will need to go to your surgeon for a series of follow-up visits. During this follow-up appointments, your doctor will check your eyes for any possible infection, then make sure your eyes are healing properly
Eye Drops for Cataracts:
The Scientist tested their lanosterol-based eye drops in 3-types of experiments. They worked with the human lens in the lab, and found a decrease in cataract size. They then tested the effects on rabbits, which according to Hanae Armitage at Science Mag, after 6 days, all but 2 of their 13 patients had gone from having severe cataracts into mild cataracts or minus the cataracts at all. Lastly, the scientist tested the eye drops on dogs with naturally occurring cataracts. Similar to the human lens in the lab, and the rabbits, the dogs responded positively to the drug, and with their severe cataracts shrinking away to nothing, or almost nothing.
The results was published in Nature.
According to molecular biologist Jonathan King from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) told Armitage, “This is a really comprehensive and compelling paper, the strongest I”ve seen of its kind in a decade,” . While not affiliated with the study, King has been involved in cataract research for the previous 15 years. “They discovered the phenomena, then was followed with all of the experiments that you should do. That’s as biologically relevant as you can get.”
The next plan is for the scientist researchers to figure out exactly how the lanosterol-based eye drops are getting this response from the cataract proteins, then to continue their research to human trials.
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