We often hear that old anecdote – “don’t take something for granted” but this puts a whole new spin on that.
With over 285 Million people out there who suffer with vision problems, it’s estimated that 32.4 Million are also blind. According to the Fred Hollows Foundation, approximately 90% of these people lie in developing countries where medical assistance is not always available. More than half of those cases are caused by cataracts.
Indeed, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness globally.
“Cataracts result from the structure of the crystallin proteins that make up the lens in our eyes. Specifically, they form when this structure deteriorates, which causes the proteins to clump together, forming a milky layer over the eye that obstructs vision.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes the proteins to do this (in other words, they’re not entirely certain why cataracts form in the first place). That said, there are some ideas, and this is where the new drug comes in.
This treatment was created based on a naturally-occurring steroid, which is known as “lanosterol.” Scientists recently discovered two siblings who had cataracts when their parents did not. These siblings shared a mutation that stopped the production of lanosterol. Notably, their parents did not have this mutation.
The scientists then thought, if the parents are producing lanosterol and don’t have cataracts, then perhaps their kids have cataracts because they aren’t producing lanosterol. Thus, adding lanosterol to the eye (or something that is similar to it) might stop the crystallin proteins from clumping together and forming cataracts.”
When tested on rabbits, the hypothesis came back very promising. in just a week, 2 of the 13 subjects had reduced cataracts, with the same finding in dogs.
If the trials work out successfully on humans, millions of lives globally could be changed for the better. We’re talking the difference between blindness and sight!
Ruben Abagyan, co-author of the paper hopes that these lanosterol drops will have the same effect on humans. In his press release, he stated “I think the natural next step is looking to translate it into humans. There’s nothing more exciting than that.”