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An Eye Drop Has Been Developed To Dissolve Cataracts

An Eye Drop Has Been Developed To Dissolve Cataracts

A new study conducted by researchers in the US has found that a new drug that can be delivered directly into the eye via an eye dropper can shrink down and, in some cases, even dissolve cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness affecting tens of millions of people. To date the only way to treat them is painful and often expensive surgery. The eye drops have yet to be tested on humans, but this is to be the next stage of the study.

Jonathan King, a molecular biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge not affiliated with the study said that “This is a really comprehensive and compelling paper—the strongest I’ve seen of its kind in a decade”. King has been investigating cataract proteins since 2000.

What are cataracts?

The major component of the fiber cells that form the eyes’ lenses are crystallins. Unfortunately, the unique properties of these cells mean that they are prone and susceptible to damage, explains Jason Gestwicki associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF.

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“Shortly after you’re born, all the fiber cells in the eye lose the ability to make new proteins, or to discard old proteins,” said  Gestwicki, “So the crystallins you have in your eye as an adult are the same as those you’re born with.”

These crystallins must maintain the flexibility and transparency of fiber cells if our lenses are to function properly. Proteins known as chaperones keep the crystallins soluble.

Keeping the crystallins healthy is tricky as clumped-together pathological configurations of crystallins are more stable than healthy forms of crystallins. Thus the fiber-cell chaperones need to resist the tendency of crystallins to clump. The clumped-together proteins are called amyloids. These amyloids make it harder for light to pass through the lens creating the cloudiness cataract is known for.

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Scientists do not know exactly what causes cataracts but the majority of cases are age related. The US National Eye Institute reports more than half of all American have a cataract or have had cataract surgery by the age of 80. https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts

Cataracts and blindness; a global problem.

A  study that conducted surveys in 39 countries found that globally the number of people who are visually impaired is estimated to be 285 million. Of this figure 39 million are blind (with uncertainties of 10-20%). 33% of the cases of visual impairment were caused by cataracts, while cataracts were the first cause of blindness; making up 51% of all blindness cases. The study indicates that visual impairment, in particular cataracts, is a major health concern.

Most of the people who suffer from blindness live in developing countries. Over half of these people are blind as a result of cataracts. Given that the money and facilities needed to perform a surgical procedure to remove a cataract is not available in many developing countries, having an eye drop as an alternative to surgery could make a tremendous difference.

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The story that sparked the research.

The new eye drops are based on a naturally-occurring steroid called lanosterol. Researches decided to explore the possibility of using lanosterol as a treatment for cataracts after hearing of two children in China who had inherited a congenital form of cataract. The children’s parents had not suffered from cataracts. The children both had a mutation that prevented the production of lanosterol. The parents did not have this mutation.

As the children did not produce lanosterol and got cataracts and the parents were producing lanasterol and did not get cataracts it was thought, by scientists, that the lanosterol could stop the defective crystalline proteins from clumping together and forming cataracts (in the non-congenital cases).

The research.

Lanosterol-based eye drops were used in three types of experiments. Firstly, the scientists worked with human lens in the Laboratory. Secondly they tested the effects on rabbits and finally they tested the eye drops on dogs with naturally occurring cataracts. The results were as following. In the experiment with human lens there was a decrease in cataract size. After six days all but two of the 13 rabbits had experienced a decrees in the severity of their cataracts. Likewise, the cataracts of the dog shrunk almost disappearing. The results were published in Nature.

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The next step.

The study identifies lanosterol as a key molecule in the prevention of amyloids and points to a new way to approach cataract prevention and treatment. The next step is for the researchers to further investigate how the lanostero-based eye drops are working and then to see if they get the same positive results when the drops are tested on humans.

Featured photo credit: Doing Mercy via doingmercy.com

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Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 24, 2021

8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

We’ve all done it. We’ve gone out and bought useless gadgets that we don’t really need, just because they seemed really cool at the time. Then, we are stuck with a bunch of junk, and end up tossing it or trying to sell it on Ebay.

On the other hand, there are some pretty awesome tech inventions that are actually useful. For instance, many of the latest home gadgets do some of your work for you, from adjusting the home thermostat to locking your front door. And, if used as designed, these tools should really help to make your life a lot easier—and that’s not just a claim from some infomercial trying to sell you yet another useless gadget.

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Take a look at some of the most popular “smart gadgets” on the market:

1. Smart Door Locks

A smart lock lets you lock and unlock your doors by using your smartphone, a special key fob, or biometrics. These locks are keyless, and much more difficult for intruders to break into, making your home a lot safer. You can even use a special app to let people into your home if you are not there to greet them.

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2. Smart Kitchen Tools

Wouldn’t you just love to have a pot of coffee waiting for you when you get home from work? What about a “smart pan” that tells you exactly when you need to flip that omelet? From meat thermometers to kitchen scales, you’ll find a variety of “smart” gadgets designed to make culinary geeks salivate.

3. Mini Home Speaker Play:1

If you love big sound, but hate how much space big speakers take up, and if you want a stereo system that is no bigger than your fist, check out the Play:1 mini speaker. All you have to do is plug it in, connect, and then you can stream without worrying about any interruptions or interface. You can even add onto it, and have different music playing in different rooms.

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4. Wi-Fi Security Cameras

These are the latest in home security, and they connect to the Wi-Fi in your home. You can use your mobile devices to monitor what is going on in your home at all times, no matter where you are. Options include motion sensors, two-way audio, and different recording options.

5. Nest Thermostat

This is a thermostat that lives with you. It can sense seasonal changes, temperature changes, etc., and it will adjust itself automatically. You will never have to fiddle with a thermostat dial or keypad again, because this one basically does all of the work for you. It can also help you to save as much as 12% on heating bills, and 15% on cooling bills.

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6. Smart Lighting

Control your home lighting from your remote device. This is great if you are out and want to make sure that there are some lights on. It is designed to be energy efficient, so it will pay for itself over time because you won’t have to spend so much on your monthly energy bills.

7. Google Chromecast Ultra

Whether you love movies, television shows, music, etc., you can stream it all using Google Chromecast Ultra. Stream all of the entertainment you love in up to 4K UHD and HDR, for just $69 monthly.

8. Canary

This home security system will automatically contact emergency services when they are needed. This system offers both video and audio surveillance, so there will be evidence if there are any break-ins on your property. You can also use it to check up on what’s happening at home when you are not there, including to make sure the kids are doing their homework.

Featured photo credit: Karolina via kaboompics.com

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