Cataracts, a major cause of blindness may one day be curable with eye drops rather than surgery.
Study led by a team of researchers at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) reveals how a solution that contains a natural steroid can be provided via eye drops and reduce cataract in dogs. Authors recently reported this study in the journal Nature.
The lenses in our eyes are mainly made up of crystallin proteins that have two functions to do – they enable us to focus our vision and they keep the lens clean. Nobody understands exactly how they do this.
Cataract is a situation that develops when the sensitive structure of the crystallin proteins is disturbed and they begin to form clumps and make the lens cloudy.
The lens is also contains lanosterol that is a necessary building block of several essential steroids in the body. Lanosterol is synthesized by an enzyme known as lanosterol synthase.
The scientists started to look into lanosterol because they identified kids with an inherited type of cataracts had the same gene mutation that obstructed lanosterol synthase.
They had a hunch that probably in normal eyes, where lenses are rich with lanosterol, it prevents the cataract-forming proteins from clumping.
Lanosterol reduced clumping in cataract-forming proteins
The investigators ran three models of tests, beginning with lab cells and advancing to animals.
Initially, in human lens cells, the team identified lanosterol reduced clumping in cataract-forming proteins. They then demonstrated treatment with lanosterol decreased cataracts and enhanced lens transparency in rabbits.
And, lastly, when they examined the lanosterol solution – both in injected and eye drop type – in live dogs with cataracts, it had the same result in decreasing protein clumping as in the human lens cells and the rabbits’ lenses: the cataracts decreased and lens transparency enhanced.
The scientists conclude:
“Our research determines lanosterol as a essential molecule in the protection of lens protein aggregation and points to a new strategy for cataract prevention and therapy.”
Should lanosterol in the type of eye drops prove to be an efficient therapy for cataracts in human beings, it could be a game changer.
Presently, the only way to cure cataracts is with surgery. But this is not a choice that is accessible to everybody. With respect to the World Health Organization (WHO), in many nations there are limitations that avoid patients obtaining surgery, and so cataract continues to be the major cause of blindness.