The end of cataract surgery? Experts say vision-robbing condition may soon be treated with DRUGS
- Cataracts are when lens develops cloudy patches, leading to misty vision
- Scientists tested a compound proposed as an anti-cataract drug on mice
- It triggered ‘remarkable’ improvement, with 46% having reduced cloudiness
A new treatment could pave the way for cataracts to be treated with drugs instead of surgery, research suggests.
Cataracts are cloudy patches on the lens of the eye, which leads to misty vision and blindness for millions worldwide.
Current treatment options for the age-related condition revolve around an operation to remove and replace the affected lens.
In hope of expanding therapeutic options, Anglia Ruskin University researchers have tested an anti-cataract drug on mice.
Rodents given the compound saw a ‘remarkable difference and improvement’, the researchers said, with nearly half (46 per cent) having reduced cloudiness in their eye.
Cataracts are when the lens, the small transparent disc inside your eye, develops cloudy patches of protein, leading to vision loss and blindness for millions worldwide. A team of international scientists, led by Professor Barbara Pierscionek at Anglia Ruskin University in London, tested a compound proposed as an anti-cataract drug
WHAT ARE CATARACTS?
Cataracts are when the lens of your eye, a small transparent disc, develops cloudy patches.
Young people have lenses that are usually like clear glass.
But among older people, lenses start to become frosted, like bathroom glass, and begin to limit vision.
Cataracts most commonly affect adults as a result of ageing.
Cataract surgery involves replacing the cloudy lens inside the eye with an artificial one.
The operation takes around 45 minutes and it can take 2 to 6 weeks to fully recover from cataract surgery.
Benefits of surgery include seeing things in focus, looking into bright lights and not seeing as much glare and telling the difference between colours.
But the risks of surgery, which happens in around one in 50 cases, includes blurred vision, some vision loss and a detached retina – when the thin layer at the back of your eye becomes loose.
Cataracts are caused by the disorganisation of the proteins in the lens.
This leads to clumps of protein forming that scatter light and severely reduce transmission to the retina.
Professor Barbara Pierscionek and fellow scientists treated mice with cataracts with a compound called VP1-001, which was given through eye drops.
The results, published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, show the treatment restored protein organisation of the lens, meaning it could better focus.
The researchers suggest their findings are a significant step towards treating the condition with drugs instead of surgery.
Around 330,000 cataract operation are performed every year in England alone.
Some 30 per cent of over-65s suffer from cataracts and a tenth have already undergone surgery for the condition.
Half of Americans have cataracts by age 75, rising to 70 per cent by the age of 80.
Professor Pierscionek, deputy dean of health, education, medicine and social care at the university, said the results show that the proposed anti-cataract drug has ‘positive effects’.
She said: ‘It is the first research of this kind in the world.’
There is a ‘remarkable difference and improvement’ in eyes treated with VP1-001 compared to those which were not, Professor Pierscionek said.
She added: ‘Improvements occurred in some types of cataract but not in all, indicating that this may be a treatment for specific cataracts.
‘This suggests distinctions may need to be made between cataract types when developing anti-cataract medications.
‘It is a significant step forward towards treating this extremely common condition with drugs rather than surgery.’