Scientists might have developed a compound that could be used to melt away cataracts from one’s eyes. Cataracts are said to be the most common cause of blindness in the world. Cataracts can be removed using surgery, but this method of correction is very expensive and invasive.
With the development of the new compound, more people throughout the world would be able to access treatment options for cataracts. The compound would be applied to the eyes in the form of a simple eye drop, and no costly surgery would be required. This would be extremely beneficial to sufferers of cataracts in the developing world.
The discovery of this potentially innovative compound was made by a team of American scientists from several universities in the United States. The findings of the team were published in the academic journal Science earlier this month.
According to the scientists, the human eye consists of water and proteins. While most proteins in the human body are being renewed on a regular basis, lens proteins are not renewed, remaining in the eye throughout one’s entire life.
Pharmaceutical chemistry professor from the University of California, San Francisco Jason Gestwicki explained, “Your lens proteins are the same proteins that you’re born with. They’re as old as you are.”
The lens proteins are supposed to be very neatly folded. However, age, genetics and factors of the environment can cause clumps called amyloids to form in the proteins. These clumps bring disturbances to vision, causing the clouding that is associated with cataracts. Usually, these symptoms appear in people in their forties to sixties. The symptoms often grow worse with age.
Gestwicki and his team found that a particular compound was able to dissolve amyloid clumps at a very efficient rate. The compound has been called “Compound 29” by the team. The compound has already been used to successfully treat cataracts in mice.
In the near future, the scientists will begin testing Compound 29 in humans. They are currently working to develop a safe eye drop using Compound 29. The scientists hope to start human testing within the next two years.
Additionally, the scientists believe that Compound 29 could be used to treat age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This is because amyloids that form in the brain lead to those devastating diseases. If Compound 29 can treat amyloids in the eye, then it might be able to treat amyloids in the brain as well. Gestwicki and his team hope to explore this possibility in the future.
But for now, they are taking things one step at a time. The first goal is curing cataracts.