A revolutionary new therapy for cataract has shown positive results in laboratory tests, giving hope the condition could soon be treated with a drug treatment in certain cases.
A team of international scientists, led by Professor Barbara Pierscionek, deputy dean (research and innovation) in the faculty of health, education, medicine and social care at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge, UK, has been carrying out advanced optical tests on an oxysterol compound that had been proposed as an anti-cataract drug.
Drug treatments for cataracts have been tested but the results remain inconclusive. An oxysterol called lanosterol has been shown to increase transparency in dissected rabbit cataractous lenses in vitro and cataract severity in vivo in dogs. But a separate analysis highlighted three studies that failed to provide evidence that lanosterol or 25-hydroxycholesterol have either anti-cataractogenic activity or bind aggregated lens protein to dissolve cataracts.
The ARU results have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.
In laboratory trials on mice, treatment with the oxysterol compound VP1-001 showed an improvement in refractive index profiles – a key optical parameter that is needed to maintain high focusing capacity – in 61% of lenses.
According to the published results, the protein organisation of the lens is being restored, resulting in the lens being better able to focus. This was supported by a reduction in lens opacity in 46% of cases.
Pierscionek, who is also a member of the Medical Technology Research Centre at ARU, said the study is the first research of this kind in the world.
“This study has shown the positive effects of a compound that had been proposed as an anti-cataract drug but never before tested on the optics of the lens.
“It has shown that there is a remarkable difference and improvement in optics between eyes with the same type of cataract that were treated with the compound compared to those that were not.”
Pierscionek continued: “Improvements occurred in some types of cataract but not in all indicating that this may be a treatment for specific cataracts. This suggests distinctions may need to be made between cataract types when developing anti-cataract medications. It is a significant step forward towards treating this extremely common condition with drugs rather than surgery.”