Cataracts is a disease that affects many elderly people. It is essentially a cloudiness that affects the eye lens and diminishes peripheral vision. In fact, it can get so bad that it often leads to blindness if untreated- about half of the world’s cases of blindness are linked to the condition. Treatment is typically limited to surgery, which is unfortunately expensive and often out of access for many of the world’s people. There are however some suggestions that non-procedural treatments may be around the corner; a welcome sign for anyone suffering from this eye condition.
The reason this condition happens is that cells in our eyes naturally migrate from the outer area to the middle of the lens throughout our lives. This leads to stretching of cells, which can cause damage to certain organelles within the cells such as the nucleus and mitochondria. The new cells are along the outside edges of the eye and become full of proteins called crystallins. These proteins are usually arranged in a way that still allows us to see through them, but damage can happen to them over time which changes this arrangement into a way that makes them opaque. There can be many causes for this wrong arrangement including exposure to UV light and genetic mutations.
Some of these genetic mutations affect a particular enzyme called lanosterol synthase which in healthy cells makes an oil that is usually used to protect skin and other organs. The mutation stops the production of this oil, which has been shown to lead to protein clumping. This has made lanosterol a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment or prevention of cataracts. So far, there has been some animal testing done in dogs that has shown that lanosterol could clear up age-related cataracts over just six weeks. Investigators saw increased lens transparency. The mechanism of action is not completely known just yet and it is unknown whether the agent could help in all forms of cataracts or only some. Being at the stage of animal testing, there is still a very long time before a drug agent would hit the market based off of this idea, but it is certainly an intriguing and promising candidate. If all goes to plan lanosterol will eventually make it to human trials and if efficacy is seen there, may be given the green light by regulators to come to market. It has the potential to drastically change our treatment of cataracts and may instantly improve millions of lives around the world.
Author Bio: Tony Rollan provides consulting services to VSI (http://www.patternless.com/) and he is an author of many articles on all types of optical and ophthalmic equipment. Author talks about medicine, health, alternative healing, sport and healthy living.
Image source: Andriy Popov