May 20, 2021
New research by scientists at the UK’s Anglia Ruskin University has identified a drug therapy that could bring relief to a the 33% of of seniors who have a visually impairing cataract. At present, the only way currently to fix a cloudy lens is to remove it and insert a clear plastic replacement.
More than 4 million operations for cataracts are performed each year in the United States; and 28 million, worldwide. A cataract is caused by an accumulation of protein in the lens that reduces the transmission of light to the retina and it is accountable for nearly 50% of the global cases of blindness.
This latest research—led by professor Barbara Pierscionek and published in the journal, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science—reveals that a particular protein called aquaporin regulates how water is transported through the lens. Without an ordered arrangement of lens proteins and water, the lens loses its transparency. Therefore, aquaporin proteins are necessary for clear vision.
“Cataracts are one of the main causes of vision loss and blindness worldwide, yet for many people surgery is inaccessible for various reasons,” says Pierscionek in a statement. “Our findings indicate the role of the aquaporin proteins and the crucial importance of this for the lens to work correctly and the eye to see clearly.
“Further research in this area is planned,” she continues, “but this discovery, together with our research on nanotechnologies that indicate drug therapy for cataract is possible, could potentially revolutionize the way cataract is treated, opening up the field for drug-based therapy rather than surgery. This would have exciting implications for public health.”
The research was presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting, held May 1-7 virtually.
Research contact: @StudyFinds