Non-surgical treatment for cataract could soon be a reality

The University of Massachusetts Amherst granted the license to Janssen Pharmaceuticals to develop a proprietary technology regarding polymers. The technology was created by polymer physicist Professor Murugappan Muthukumar and fellow researcher Ben Mohr, who have been studying the science of proteins in human eyes.The technology involves shooting hundreds of controlled-frequency light into protein solutions to measure the amount that goes through and angles of refraction in the lens. The measurents are then used to determine how molecules are organised in the lens and compared with protein clumping.The lens, according to the professor, is “a collection of proteins and biopolymers” which scatters light as it passes through, while “characterising light-scattering is a classic probl in polymer physics.”Muthukumar, a professor in polymer science and engineering explained “if the molecules making up the lens aggregate or clump, it forms a cataract, which scatters light in an undesirable way and light must pass through the lens to reach the retina where the vision process is triggered.“In a lens with cataract, light is scattered away from its path to the retina, disrupting vision. I wanted to understand how this aggregation takes place because if I understand it I can come up with an approach to correct it,” he added.Similar conditions have been studied with presbyopia, where the elasticity of the lens depends on the extent of the cataract. Understanding the science behind cataracts will help researchers understand the molecular basis of presbyopia as well.A statent issued by for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson company, noted that the partnership with UMass Amherst is one of 15 healthcare research collaborations already announced this year. It also stated these age-related eye conditions represent “an area of high unmet need” that will benefit from the company’s pursuit of cutting-edge science.Muthukumar is also currently undertaking research funded by the National Institutes of Health in collaboration with Nathan Ravi of Washington University in developing a polymer hydrogel, which could serve as a substitute for the vitreous part of the eyeball. He is also part of another study funded by the UMass Foundation on retinal blindness among children.

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