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Sunday / July 14.
HomeminewsCataracts Could be Treated with Eye Drops

Cataracts Could be Treated with Eye Drops

An eye drop tested on dogs suggests that cataracts, the most common cause of blindness in humans which accounts for half of blindness cases worldwide, could one day be cured without surgery, a study has said.

It was reported in Nature1 that a naturally-occurring molecule called lanosterol, administered with an eye dropper, shrank canine cataracts.

Currently the only treatment for cataracts is surgery, which treats the condition by replacing the lens. As populations age the number of people needing the operation is set to double in the next 20 years.

It was reported that “the chain of research leading to the potential cure began with two children — patients of lead researcher Kang Zhang of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China — from families beset with a congenital, or inherited, form of the condition.

These are very preliminary findings… before there are any human trials, the scientists will probably test other molecules to see if they might work even better

“Dr Zhang and colleagues discovered that his patients shared a mutation in a gene critical for producing lanosterol, which the researchers suspected might impede cataract-forming proteins from clumping in normal eyes.”

In the first set of lab experiments on cells it was reported that lanosterol helped ward off the proteins. Then, in subsequent tests, dogs with naturally-occurring cataracts received eye drops containing the molecule.
After six weeks of treatment, the researchers reported that the size and characteristic cloudiness of the cataracts had decreased.

The researchers concluded that the “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.”

“These are very preliminary findings,” said J Fielding Hejtmancik, a scientist at the US National Eye Institute, who wrote a commentary in Nature.

“Before there are any human trials, the scientists will probably test other molecules to see if they might work even better,” he said.

1. nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14650.html#figures