It could mean a cheap, painless way to restore vision to thousands.
Most of us take our vision for granted. As a result, we take the ability to read, write, drive, and complete a multitude of other tasks for granted. However, sight is not so easy for everyone. Indeed, for many people, si
Fortunately, there is a treatment; however, the only option is surgery, and it is prohibitively expensive. This means that, unfortunately, for individuals in developing nations, who often lack access to basic medical care, treatment is not an option.
But of course, this isn’t just a problem faced by developing nations.
There are, however, other treatment options. Researchers based in the US have created a drug that can be delivered directly into the eye via an eyedropper. And it can dissolve cataracts.
Despite its remarkable promise, the treatment has yet to be tested on humans. The drug is slated to enter clinical trials, but because of the strict regulations put in place to ensure there are no extreme side effects associated with new drugs, it will be some time before these drops make it to market and can be utilized as a viable alternative to surgery.
Regardless, this is a great step forward.
How It Works
Cataracts result from the structure of the crystallin proteins that make up the lens in our eyes. Specifically, they form when this structure deteriorates, which causes the proteins to clump together, forming a milky layer over the eye that obstructs vision.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes the proteins to do this (in other words, they’re not entirely certain why cataracts form in the first place). That said, there are some ideas, and this is where the new drug comes in.
This treatment was created based on a naturally-occurring steroid, which is known as “lanosterol.” Scientists recently discovered two siblings who had cataracts when their parents did not. These siblings shared a mutation that stopped the production of lanosterol. Notably, their parents did not have this mutation.
The scientists then thought, if the parents are producing lanosterol and don’t have cataracts, then perhaps their kids have cataracts because they aren’t producing lanosterol. Thus, adding lanosterol to the eye (or something that is similar to it) might stop the crystallin proteins from clumping together and forming cataracts.
The scientists tested this hypothesis on rabbits, and the results were very promising. After just a week, all but two of their 13 test subjects had gone from having severe cataracts to mild cataracts (or none at all). This drug was also tested on dogs, and it had the same results.
IIf the trials on humans are successful, and they make it to market, these eye drops could be used to change the lives of millions around the globe. It could literally mean the difference between blindness and sight. Ruben Abagyan, who co-authored the paper, hopes that the lanosterol drops will have the same impact on cataracts in humans.