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Breakthroughs: Molecule Could Hold the Key to Cataract Reversal

August 28, 2015

As you get older, it can seem inevitable to eventually need reading glasses for small type or to squint every once in a while. It’s part of aging, you think, just an inevitable consequence of having lived a while. One of the biggest causes of this is the development of cataracts, which are masses that cloud the eye’s lens, which helps focus light or images.

Cataracts can lead to blurred vision and eventually blindness. There are lots of common misconceptions about cataracts, mostly related to who can get them: cataracts are usually related to aging, common among older people. However, it surprises most to learn that many will get them in their 40s and 50s. By 80, half of people will have had a cataract or surgery for this problem.

Risky behaviors, like smoking and alcohol use, as well as natural predispositions like diabetes and environmental factors contribute to cataract development. It happens because the eye’s lens is made of water and proteins, and as we age, the proteins can clump together. This reduces sharpness of the images that reach the retina, creating blurry images.

Early symptoms can be improved with new glasses, brighter lights, and anti-glare sunglasses. You don’t need surgery until the cataract interferes with your daily life, which could take years or not ever—however, waiting for one to fully mature means risking permanent side effects. If your vision has been deteriorating due to a cataract, come to OCLI and together, we can make an informed decision together about when to remove it.

But wouldn’t it be great if there was a cataract reversal process?

A controversial paper in Nature suggests that a molecule called lanosterol can do just that. The molecule, which is almost like a cousin to cholesterol, could be the only nonsurgical fix for cataracts ever.

The brilliant researcher who found it is named Kang Zhang, and he hails from the University of California, San Diego. He and his colleagues were studying three siblings who all had congenital cataracts and found that lanosterol, a precursor to cholesterol, can break up the clumps that form cataracts—almost like a wrecking ball.

They tested on animals with cataracts. Dogs treated with eyedrops containing lanosterol had less severe cataracts afterwards, which is a great sign that humans would respond similarly.

According to Jonathan A. King, who’s a biologist in the field at MIT, the results are “absolutely compelling data that lanosterol interferes with and slows the aggregation of lens proteins.”

Still, other researchers say that while exciting, the results weren’t conclusive and the experiment didn’t involve several parts of standard procedure for those in the cataract field, like correctly photographing the eyes to determine the severity of the cataract. And while the use of lanosterol won’t be perfected for several years, its potential is astounding, and we’re so excited to follow these breakthroughs in the field of ophthalmology

In the meantime, if you’re currently suffering from blurred vision from cataracts, OCLI’s Dr. Silverman is the premiere New Jersey cataract specialist. He uses the most current techniques to be approved and found safe to remove cataracts and replace impaired lenses. Contact us today for a totally free consultation with New Jersey’s finest.

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