The most common cause of blindness in humans is cataracts. As the population ages, the number of people with cataracts is set to double in the next 20 years. Although the surgery is generally simple and safe, it’s costly and requires trained surgeons.
But now, researchers have found a way to cure cataracts without surgery.
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens. As it grows over time, it starts to affect the ability to perform everyday tasks like reading and driving; this is when surgical removal, either by scalpel or laser, is usually needed.
Cataract surgery in 6 minutes—narrated by Dr. Sibley, Florida Eye Center:
Researchers found that by administering a naturally-occurring molecule called lanosterol with an eye drop on dogs, it shrank the canine’s cataracts.
According to Gizmag, 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 led researchers to surmise that the molecule might prevent cataract-forming proteins from clumping in the eyes.
Laser-assisted cataract surgery @ Eye Medical Center of Fresno:
In a first set of lab experiments on cells, they confirmed their hunch that lanosterol helped ward off the proteins. In subsequent tests, dogs with naturally-occurring cataracts received eye drops containing the molecule. After six weeks of treatment, the size and characteristic cloudiness of the cataracts had decreased, the researchers reported, wrote Medical Xpress.
“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 reported.
The study had only lasted for a few months, so the cataracts are likely to have reoccurred after the drops stopped, Zhang says, although he believes that the eye drops could play an important role in the prevention of cataracts. The ultimate “goal” is to develop a cheap, effective drug that can be widely used in low-resource settings.