The news has been buzzing with reports of a new eye drop that may one day allow for cataracts to be treated without surgery. But don’t cancel that cataract surgery consultation just yet. While this research may show initial promise, it has yet to be tested in humans or approved for patient use.
Chinese and American scientists and ophthalmologists have found that a natural chemical may stop the development of cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Named lanosterol, the chemical was found to be missing in children who had developed a rare form of childhood cataracts. In contrast, the chemical was found in their parents who did not have the condition. The researchers developed an eye drop solution made of lanosterol and tested the solution on dogs, rabbits and synthetic cataracts developed in labs using cells from human lenses. They found that the drops shrank cataracts significantly in all three groups.
“If this treatment is successfully tested in humans and approved for patient use, it could be a promising alternative for people living in low-resource areas, where it is difficult to access cataract surgery,” said Ravi D. Goel, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and cataract surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital. “However, it’s still too early to tell if these eye drops are a viable treatment.”
The researchers are not yet sure of the exact mechanism by which lanosterol causes the cataracts to shrink, nor do they know whether or not there are any risks in using lanosterol clinically in human eyes. It’s likely that this research will continue to evolve, so stay tuned! We promise to let you know if this becomes a reality.