New Eye Drops Can Dissolve Cataracts With No Need For Surgery
Cataracts is the leading make of blindness worldwide. The only option for those affectedis surgery, an expensive and invasive procedure thats unavailable to many in these developing countries. But perhaps were not too far off from changing that, as another study is hanging the possibility of using eye drops-off as a viable alternative, potentially offering a practical therapy to the 20 million or so people affected worldwide.
Cataracts, or cloudy lenses, arise when lens proteins called crystallins begin to twisting into the incorrect conformation and clump together. Crystallins, a major constituent of the lens fiber cells , ordinarily help keep the lens transparent by avoiding proteins from forming aggregates that diffract incoming lighting. They do this by acts as molecular chaperones that maintain the solubility of lens proteins.
As we age, these crystallin proteins can become injury and consequently cluster into fibers much like what we are presented in the brains of those with Alzheimers. Unfortunately, these tangles of proteinare much more stable than the normal, native kind, and since you stop make-up crystallins when youre born, their formation depletes the eye of healthy, functional versions.
Armed with this knowledge, writers of the current study, are presented in Science, went on a hunt for medication compounds that could act as pharmaceutical chaperones, molecules that stick with and stabilize the natural state of a protein. Specifically, they wanted compounds that could selectively hang on to the soluble form of crystallin proteins and thus prevent them from clumping together.
Cataract replacement surgery.codrin5/ Shutterstock
A key part of information facilitated this search: The melting point of crystallins increases as they aggregate together. The researchers scouredthousands of molecules applying a high-throughput technique that basically makes proteins to fluoresce when their melting point is reached, looking for substances that could lower this property to within the scope of normal crystallins. Eventually, they found one that belonged to the same group as a promising compound identified the beginning of this year that scientists also think could treat cataracts.
Encouragingly, in cells growing on petri dishes, this molecule so far merely named compound 21 dissolved globs that had already formed and likewise helped preventing such bundles from forming in the first place. Moving on to animals, they tested out mice both genetically predisposed to cataracts, much like humans with hereditary cataracts caused by gene mutations, and also elderly mice with age-related cataracts. Applied as eye fells, the substance successfully reduced the cloudiness of the lens, a achievement also achieved in affected lenses surgically removed from human subjects.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, the tests couldnt prove that eyesight actually improved in the animals, only that transparency was increased. Further tests are therefore needed, but its certainly a move in the right direction. Not only that, but the similarities of clumpy crystallin and the aggregates found in the brains of Alzheimers and Parkinsons patients tantalizingly proposes the possibility of using this compound in cancers other than cataracts.
This work is the result of a collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco, the University of Michigan, and Washington University in St. Louis.
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