Cataract patients could soon have the option of getting rid of their condition with just a few eye drops rather than a surgery, researchers at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China have revealed.
Researchers used naturally-occurring molecule dubbed lanosterol and administered it with an eye dropper. Researchers found that the molecule shrank canine cataracts, which account for half of blindness cases worldwide.
Kang Zhang, lead scientist of the study, and colleagues found that their cataract patients shared a mutation in a gene critical for producing lanosterol. This, researchers suspect, might impede cataract-forming proteins from clumping in normal eyes.
For their research, they first carried out lab experiments on cells and found that their speculation about lanosterol helping ward off the proteins was actually correct. Scientists then performed further tests on dogs, as these animals have naturally-occurring cataracts. Researchers found that after six weeks of treatment, the size and characteristic cloudiness of the cataracts had decreased.
“Our study identifies lanosterol as a key molecule in the prevention of lens protein aggregation and points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and treatment,” the authors concluded in the study published in Nature.
Though the research is promising, experts say that these are just preliminary findings and that more research is required to ensure that the molecule is ready for human trails. The findings of the research do not mean that lanosterol is the only or the best compound out there to treat cataract.