There are more than 285 million people worldwide who have vision problems. According  WHO an estimated 32.4 million people around the world are blind. Ultimately, 90% of these people live in developing countries, and more than half of these cases of blindness are caused by cataracts. Indeed, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. Fortunately, there is a treatment; however, the only option is surgery, and it is prohibitively expensive. This means that, unfortunately, for individuals in developing nations, who often lack access to basic medical care, treatment is not an option. But of course, this isn’t just a problem faced by developing nations.

Researchers based in the US have created a drug that can be delivered directly into the eye via an eyedropper. And it can dissolve cataracts. it will be some time before these drops make it to market and can be utilized as a viable alternative to surgery.

The new drug is based on a naturally-occurring steroid called lanosterol. The idea to test the effectiveness of lanosterol on cataracts came to the researchers when they became aware of two children in China who had inherited a congenital form of cataract, which had never affected their parents. The researchers discovered that these siblings shared a mutation that stopped the production of lanosterol, which their parents lacked.

So if the parents were producing lanosterol and didn’t get cataracts, but their children weren’t producing lanosterol and did get cataracts, the researchers proposed that the steroid might halt the defective crystallin proteins from clumping together and forming cataracts in the non-congenital form of the disease.

They tested their lanosterol-based eye drops in three types of experiments. They worked with human lens in the lab and saw a decrease in cataract size. They then tested the effects on rabbits, and according to Hanae Armitage at Science Mag, after six days, all but two of their 13 patients had gone from having severe cataracts to mild cataracts or no cataracts at all. Finally, they tested the eye drops on dogs with naturally occurring cataracts. Just like the human lens in the lab and the rabbits, the dogs responded positively to the drug, with severe cataracts shrinking away to nothing, or almost nothing. The results have been published in Nature.

FROM AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR DR GOVIND SHUKLA, NUTRITION EXPERT

Govind Shukla, Specializes in Pharmacology, Toxicology, Nutraceuticals & Herbal Drugs has published More than 100 research papers in National & International Journals. He is also a reviewer of International Journal of Pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, Chief editor of IJPNR Journal & Freelance Medical Writer for Different publication Groups including Lambert Academic Publishing Saarbrucken, Germany.

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