Exciting results from a new study published in esteemed science journal Nature could help cure blindness on a grand scale.
Surgery is currently the preferred method used for treating cataracts, the clouding of the lens of the eye. Although it’s a simple operation, trained surgeons aren’t always available in poorer countries and the cost can be prohibitive. If left untreated, the cloudiness results in blindness.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is known for their dedication to ending avoidable blindness. Their statistics estimate that 32.4 million people worldwide are blind, with 90 percent of them living in developing countries. Astoundingly, more than 50 per cent of these cases are a direct result of untreated cataracts.
Researchers looking into families with genetically occurring cataracts, found a mutation in the gene that produces the molecule lanosterol. Healthy versions of the molecule tended to prevent cataract-causing proteins clumping together, but in abnormal molecules, the cataract-causing proteins resulted in a cloudy lens.
The lanosterol-based eye drops were tested in three trials, on human lenses in a lab, rabbits and dogs with naturally occurring cataracts. The optimistics results showed that severe cases of cataracts shrunk, almost dissolving completely. The results have
Molecular biologist Jonathan King of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a leader in cataract research, and found the study a great step forward.
“This is a really comprehensive and compelling paper – the strongest I’ve seen of its kind in a decade,” he said.
If the next step to further human trials continues to be positive, this could be a phenomenal game changer for ending avoidable blindness in developing countries.