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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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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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