Almost all of us, with the exception of a few, take our vision for granted. We stay up late and use our handheld devices or laptops in bed without giving any attention to what it is doing to our eyes. However, there are many people who struggle with vision every day, and according to a report, more than 285 million people in the world suffer from vision problems, and a huge part of them suffer from cataracts.
As per the Fred Hollows Foundation, about 32.4 million people in the world are blind, and more than 50% of them are blind because of cataracts. The only treatment for cataracts is surgery, and it doesn’t help that most of our patients are in developing countries. This makes it quite difficult for these patients to get treatment for cataracts. Good news is that a team of researchers in the US has managed to develop a drug that can be administered using an eyedropper and is capable of dissolving cataracts.
But despite the promising future that the treatment holds, it has yet to be tested on humans. It is scheduled to enter the clinical trials; however, strict regulations have been put in place to make sure that there are no adverse side effects of the treatment. This implies that there is still some time before the treatment is readily available as an alternative to surgery.
Cataracts are formed because of the structure of our the crystallin proteins that constitute the lens in our eyes. They are formed when this structure is damaged, thus causing the proteins to get clumped together. This creates a layer, milky, over the eye that hampers the vision. The new treatment was developed based on a steroid that forms naturally and is called ‘lanosterol’.
The team came across two siblings that had cataracts, whereas their parents did not suffer from it. The said siblings had a mutual mutation that had ceased the lanosterol production while the parents didn’t have this mutation. This led the scientists to believe that maybe the lack of production of lanosterol is the reason the siblings are suffering from cataracts. Scientists tested the theory on thirteen rabbits, and within a week, all but two of them had gone from suffering from severe cataracts to mild or no cataracts at all. The drug has been tested on dogs as well with similar results.
Ruben Abagyan, the co-author of the paper, said, ‘I think the natural next step is looking to translate it into humans. There’s nothing more exciting than that.’