Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK have made significant progress in treating cataracts using a drug compound, paving the way for new treatment methods, according to a statement from university press.
A cataract is a medical condition in which the lens becomes cloudy over time and affects the quality of vision. Opacification is caused by the disorganization of proteins present in the lens. This ultimately leads to their clumping, which scatters light away from the retina, thereby reducing vision. According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease affects around 65 million people worldwide, with moderate to severe vision loss seen in around 80% of cases.
Using medicine as a remedy
Conventionally, surgery has been the only cure for this condition. However, a team of researchers led by ARU Professor Barbara Pierscionek has done advanced testing of an oxysterol compound as an anti-cataract drug. An oxysterol is a derivative of cholesterol that plays a role in many cellular functions, including autophagy – conserved cellular breakdown to remove unnecessary components.
The compound called VP1-001, when used in laboratory tests, showed a marked improvement in the refractive index profile in 61% of cases. In comparison, the press release states that lens opacity was reduced in 46% of cases. A refractive index profile is a crucial parameter in determining the focusing ability of the eye. The drug therefore works to restore the organization of proteins inside the lens.
“This is the first research of its kind anywhere in the world,” Professor Pierscionek said in the press release. “The positive effects of the compound have been proposed as an anti-cataract drug but never tested before on the optics of the lens. This is a significant step towards treating this extremely common condition with drugs rather than surgery. .”
However, studies have also shown improvements in only certain types of cataracts and not all. This would mean that treatment would only be an option for specific cataract types, and distinctions must be made when developing anti-cataract drugs in the future, the researchers said.
The study was published in the journal, Ophthalmology and visual sciences.
Goal: Investigate how cataract-related mutations affect gradient refractive index (GRIN) and lens opacification in mouse lenses and whether there is an effect on lens optics following treatment with an oxysterol compound.
Methods: A total of 35 mice including wild-type and knock-in mutants (crya-R49C and cryab-R120G) were used in these experiments: 26 mice were treated with topical VP1-001, an oxysterol, in one eye and vehicle in the other, and nine mice were untreated controls. Slit lamp biomicroscopy has been used to analyze the lens in living animals and to provide apparent cataract grades. The refractive index in the lenses of 64 unfixed whole mouse eyes was calculated from measurements with X-ray phase tomography based on Talbot X-ray interferometry with a synchrotron radiation source.
Results: Heterozygous crya-R49C lenses had slightly irregularly shaped contours at the center of the GRIN and distinct index gradient disturbances at the anterior and posterior poles. Contours near the lens surface were denser in homozygotes cryab-R120G lenses. Treatment with topical VP1-001, an oxysterol, showed improved refractive index profiles in 61% of lenses and this was supported by a reduction in the degree of apparent lens opacity by 1.0 in 46% of live mice.
conclusion: These results indicate that α-crystal mutations alter the refractive index gradient of mouse lenses in a distinct way and suggest that topical treatment with VP1-001 can improve lens transparency and refractive index contours. refraction in some lenses with mutations.