Dissolving Cataracts with a Drop

A new eye drop may be an alternative to having cataract surgery.
Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- Most of us can see clearly but for tens of millions of people around the globe who have cataracts, their vision can be pretty blurry.

"Unfortunately, anyone who gets old will have cataracts," said Kang Zhang, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego.

Cataracts are broken protein fragments that build up inside the lens of the eye. The only way to remove the cloudiness is surgery to remove the cloudy lens -- that is -- until now.

A new eye drop may be all patients need to clear up their vision.

Zhang and his team of molecular biologists and ophthalmologists at UC San Diego have created a steroid-based eye drop that breaks up the protein fragments and dissolves cataracts. Up until now, the drops have only been tested on dogs such as: Black Labs, Queensland Heelers and Miniature Pinschers with promising results.

"Dogs, just like human beings, will get cataracts when they get old. In fact, cataracts are very, very prevalent in the dog populations," said Zhang.

"What we have actually done is put it in a dog's eye and in six weeks, we have seen reversal of cataracts, or increased clarity in the lens," Zhang said.

The dog's eye lens has changed from a cloudy yellow color to a clearer white color.

Researchers believe that the drops will do the same thing for the lens of the human eye.

"I think this … can really change, or transform how we practice this medicine," said Zhang.

In the future, it could help not only cataracts, but other conditions that involve proteins such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

A happy outcome for dogs -- and hopefully their best friends.

Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.