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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 February 11, 2021

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

The 20 Most Creative Instagram Accounts That Will Inspire You

Instagram allows you to see exactly what inspires people and how creativity is drawn from their everyday life. We use Instagram to capture what makes us smile, what brings joy to our life, and what we are passionate about, and the accounts listed below are sure to inspire you in turn.

Here are our 20 top creative Instagram accounts that you should be following today.

1. Humans Of New York

Brandon Stanton walks the streets of New York City taking street photography, and he gets his subjects to open up about life details that even many family members may not know about them. It makes you smile and connect with the images at a new level.

 2.  Paris in Four Months

Carin Olsson moved to Paris and is documenting every part of her experience, from the macaroons to the Eiffel Tower with all of its shimmering lights. If you want to go to Paris but can’t get there today, Carin will take you.

3. Civilized Caveman Cooking

George Bryant offers up more than his love for cooking Paleo cuisine as he shares more about life, joy, and happiness. His coined hashtag is #hugsandbacon.

4. Andrew Knapp

Andrew has taken the world by storm with his adorable version of Where’s Waldo? His version is Find Momo, and stars his border collie.

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5. Idafrosk

Ida Skivenes has developed a knack for food art. From the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Strawberry Fields Forever, she has recreated it all with food.

6. GrandmaBetty33

Grandma Betty is fighting cancer and is inspiring others to smile and be happy in life. She brings a smile to your face instantly and is like having your grandma right beside you.

7. Maya_on_the_Move

Tania Ahsan captures the world of her cute bulldog, Maya, on her adventures in New York. Maya makes appearances that will make you smile, laugh, and inspire you to go out and create something special.

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8. Leoleoparis

Leo captures the life on the streets of Paris. Most of his work is done in black and white, offering that iconic Parisian look.

9. Jacob Santiago

Jacob Santiago creates stunning, vibrant images around New York City, showcasing the architecture and streets. I’m sure you haven’t seen the streets of NYC like this before.

10. Julie’s Kitchen

Julie Lee showcases how everyday produce can create colorful art designs. At first glance, you think it is just a design; then, a second take illustrates that it is really fruits and vegetables.

11. iloveplaymo

iloveplaymo brings together photography and Playmobil toys in action. The images are up to date with current world events and everyday life.

12. “Red” Hong Yi

Red Hong Yi loves to paint without a paintbrush. Her style uses daily items to create lovely images.

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13. Alexis Diaz

A breathtaking artist from Puerto Rico who loves to paint murals. Alexis’s work is featured all over the world.

14. Murad Osmann

Murad Osmann is a music video producer, but his claim to fame on Instagram has been his photographs with his girlfriend leading him by her hand.

15. Simone Bramate

Simone Bramate is a storyteller who just so happens to take delightful photos as well.

16. Willie Kessel

Willie Kessel brings beach life right to your smartphone. Amazing surf and lifestyle images that take your mind off of all of the work and stress in your life.

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17. Nick Ulivieri

Nick Ulivieri is a talented photographer who loves to capture the windy city of Chicago and skies, especially during storms. His images are gorgeous and make you realize how wonderful life really is.

18. Jo Jerry

Jo Jerry’s landscape photos around Santorini, Greece, make you want to book a flight immediately. The bright colors and simplicity in the images make his photos stand out from the rest.

19. GoPro

GoPro uses fan-sourced images on their account that are all captured with a GoPro. Creativity to the max is used in these images and range from the grocery store to incredible surf.

20. Vin Farrell

Vin Farrell is a creative who works on the agency side for large clients and has a knack for photography. His iPhone captures amazing aerial images around NYC and the world.

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