Cataracts – Cause Found – Better Treatments?
Mark Reynolds reporting in the Daily Express – Scientists have discovered the cause of cataracts that could help in developing better treatments and diets to combat the condition.
They found that ducts in the eyes malfunction leading to a build up of abnormal protein levels that damage the eye’s lenses.
The breakthrough could lead to a greater understanding of other diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s which are linked to the accumulation of abnormal proteins.
Cataracts are cloudy patches that develop in the lens of the eye causing blurred or misty vision.
The condition affects 2.5 million over-65s in England and Wales.
Experts have been divided on the exact cause of age-related cataracts, some have suggested they may be the result of changes in the structure of the lens over time.
Other risks include a family history of eye problems, smoking, drinking, a poor diet lacking in vitamins, lifelong exposure to sunlight and conditions such as diabetes or long-term uveitis – inflammation of the middle layer of the eye.
Many sufferers eventually have to undergo surgery to repair their impaired vision.
Scientists from Tufts University, near Boston, USA, found that a breakdown in communication between two biochemical pathways in the eye leads to cataracts.
Normally, obsolete or damaged proteins that can cause damage to the lenses are removed by the ubiquitin and lysosomal pathways. But scientists noticed that when the ubiquitin pathway falters, calcium flows into the cells of the lens which causes a third pathway to be activated.
It is this third pathway that causes cataract-related damage in the eye.
Professor Allen Taylor, at Tufts University, said: “We discovered that the ubiquitin pathway and the calpain pathway communicate with one another.
“When their conversation goes awry, cells start a vicious circle in which proteins are improperly degraded.
“This leads to alterations in proteins and the clouding of the lens that signals the onset of cataracts.”
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.