Cataracts May Be Treatable with Eye Drops
Steroid eye drops may one day be able to treat cataracts instead of extensive surgery, suggests a new study in the journal Nature.
Cataracts is a condition that develops when the crystallin proteins that make up the lenses of our eyes are disrupted and start to form clumps and make the lens cloudy. The lens is also rich in a molecule called lanosterol that is an essential building block of many important steroids in the body. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego decided to follow up on studies finding that a gene mutation in children which caused them to inherit cataracts may also be responsible for blocking production of the enzyme that creates lanosterol.
From that research, the scientists believed that since normal eyes are typically rich in lanosterol, blocking the production of lanosterol could trigger crystallin proteins to clump together, forming cataracts.
The researchers were able to prove this by testing this theory on human cells in their first experiment. In their second experiment, they found that treating rabbits with lanosterol reduced cataracts and increased eye lens transparency. Lastly, the scientists tested a lanosterol solution on dogs, both as an injected form and as eye drops. They found it had the same positive results that they found with rabbits.
Currently the only way to treat cataracts is by surgery. More tests need to be done, but scientists now know lanosterol is the likely target for cataract prevention and treatment.