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Cataract sufferers may soon be able to replace costly and dangerous surgery with eye drops to restore their sight, an international research team has found.
Cataracts are caused by a build-up of protein on the lens, turning it opaque. Currently, the only treatment is surgery, which is not readily available in developing countries. This lack of access had led to cataracts becoming the most common cause of blindness worldwide.
In a study published in Nature, a team including researchers from Sichuan University, found that children born with cataracts were unable to produce lanosterol, a steroid naturally occurring in the lens, which is responsible for breaking protein clumps apart.
In the lab, the team found that treatment with a lanosterol solution broke apart the protein clumps and increased lens transparency. By administering lanosterol eye drops in vivo to dogs the team were able to successfully reduce the size and severity of cataracts.
The team believes their study “points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and treatment.”