An article titled “Eye Drops Could Dissolve Cataracts” described new research findings that eye drops containing a biomolecule, called lanosterol, could be a new treatment for cataracts. Cataracts create cloudy vision due to clumps of proteins that form on the lens inside of the eye. The article reported that the eye drops not only dissolved the clumps in lens cells in the lab, but that the treatment dissolved the clumps in rabbit and dog eyes.
There are several discrepancies between the article and the actual research report. In the report, the scientists identified lanosterol as a molecule that disrupts the clumps involved in cataracts. They treated lenses they dissected from cataractous rabbit eyes by covering them in a lanosterol solution; they did not treat rabbits directly with eye drops. Additionally, they injected lanosterol into the eye cavities of dogs with cataracts, then treated them with eye drops containing lanosterol for six weeks. In both cases, the cataracts subsided, but in neither case did they show that eye drops by themselves could treat cataracts in live eyes.
Cataracts can be caused by different factors, including low levels of lanosterol in the eye, but also ultraviolet light, eye trauma, and aging. Therefore, lanosterol may not treat all causes of cataracts. Whether lanosterol would need to be used throughout one’s life is unknown, and the long-term consequences are uncertain. Lastly, lanosterol treatment has been suggested as an alternative to cataract surgery. However, cataract surgery also corrects changes in vision, such as nearsightedness, which can worsen with cataracts. There is little evidence to suggest that lanosterol will treat such vision changes. The benefits of cataract surgery versus lanosterol treatment will have to be weighed carefully to determine if lanosterol is a good alternative.
Managing correspondent: Emily Low
Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Dr. Jessica Low Chen, M.D., Ophthalmologist and Cataract Surgeon, for expert advice on cataract formation and treatments.
Original article: ScienceMag
Original research report: Cell