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    New eye drops could cure cataracts

    San Diego, CA—Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, have developed an eye drop solution that may dissolve cataracts, according to a  study recently published in Nature.

    Molecular biologist Ling Zhao and her team developed the eye drop after finding that children with a genetically inherited form of cataracts shared genetic aberrations in an enzyme called lanosterol synthase. This genetic mutation shut down the production of lanosterol—an oily compound found in the skin.

    Researchers suspected that lanosterol prevented the clumping of proteins in the eye.

    Related: Innovations in cataract and refractive surgery

    Testing lanosterol drops

    The UC San Diego team tested a lanosterol solution in three experiments.

    First, the solution was tested on human lens cells to see how effectively the lanosterol shrank lab models of cataracts. The researchers observed a significant decrease, leading them to believe the lanosterol breaks apart the crystalline clumps like detergent splits dirt.

    Second, researchers tested the solution on rabbits with cataracts. At the end of six days, the cataracts in 11 of the 13 rabbits had gone from severe or significant to mild or no cataracts at all.

    For the final test, researchers moved onto dogs, testing the solution on a group of seven black Labs, Queensland Heelers, and Miniature Pinschers, all with naturally occurring cataracts. Researchers administered the solution both in the form of an injection and eye drops. Over the course of six weeks, the dogs’ lenses showed the same dissolving pattern shown in the human and rabbit lens cells. To see the before-and-after photos, click here.

    The researchers say that the next step is attempting to translate this success into human lenses.

    Next: The end of cataract surgery?

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...


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