California scientists have come across an amazing discovery about the naturally occurring steroid lanosterol and its ability to melt away cataracts and also to prevent them from returning when are administered to patients via eye drops. If the compound is ever approved for human use, it would be available only as a non-invasive treatment for certain individuals who suffer from moderate forms of cataracts.
Scientists became aware of cataract-blocking abilities of lanosterol after observing two children in China who suffered from a hereditary form of this condition. After a closer examination, it became very clear that the Chinese children shared a mutation that was blocking steroid lanosterol’s production, Science Alert had reported. The children’s parents lacked this mutation, which is why they have never developed cataracts. Once the observation was done, the team of scientists proposed that the steroid must have been the one to play very important role in the process of cataracts formation.
In a series of similar experiments outlined in a certain study, which is now published in Nature, the team of scientists tested lanosterol on human lenses (which were donated) and live dogs and rabbits. The final results repeatedly showed that the lanosterol was able to shrink cataract size significantly.
Cataracts develop after a protein builds up in the lens and thus prevents light from getting through. Even though the condition can often be hereditary, such as in the abovementioned case of the Chinese siblings, often, it is more likely to develop at a certain older age. According to many Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, cataract is the leading culprit from blindness occurrence across the globe and the leading cause for vision loss in the U.S.A. At this moment, the only available treatment against cataracts is surgically removing the ill clouded lens from your eye and then replacing it with an artificial one.
Even though it is not entirely clear how lanosterol is actually working, researchers believe the steroid is preventing the proteins from building up over time. According to Tech Times, if the eye drops are proven to also be effective on humans, they then could offer a treatment for individuals who have a moderate or mild cataracts that is non-invasive and can serve as a way to prevent this condition from returning. Even though cataract surgery procedure is relatively safe and easy, the eye drops would serve as an even easier alternative for all of the 50 million Americans estimated to be suffering from this condition by the year 2050.
No matter that it has not yet been tested on humans, this study is already causing huge excitement among patients. Jonathan King, a molecular biologist working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has told Armitage that the mentioned study is the strongest among its kind that he has seen in decades.
“They did discover the phenomena followed with all the experiments that should been done — that is as biologically relevant as you can get,” King explained.