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Cataract is the leading cause of blindness around the world, especially in the aging population. According to the estimates, by the year 2030, the number of people undergoing cataract surgery will reach 32 million.
Cataract surgery is a commonly done surgical procedure for cataract in which the clouded lens is removed and an artificial lens is inserted in its place. However, some of the cells from the natural lens are always retained. The healing process can cause these cells to grow along the backside of the artificial lens leading to secondary cataract formation which needs follow-up surgery for removal. Secondary cataracts are a common complication of cataract surgery.
A recent study has shown that some of the new drugs which are being used for treating age-related macular degeneration can prove to be useful in the prevention of secondary cataracts and can eliminate the need for follow-up surgery.
This study was carried out at the University of East Anglia and was led by Dr. Michael Wormstone, from UEA's School of Biological Sciences. The study was partly funded by eye research charity Fight for Sight.
Cataract Surgery Revolutionized
According to Dr. Michael Wormstone, secondary cataract can be easily managed with surgery. However, taking into account the fact that the average life span has increased, this preventable condition can prove to be a burden in terms of poor life quality for the patients along with the financial strain. It will also consume valuable resources that can be utilized to treat patients of primary cataracts.
The conventional surgery for cataract consists of removal of the core of the natural lens leaving its outer covering or the “capsular bag” intact in which an artificial lens is placed. The capsular bag of the natural lens then 'shrink-wraps' around the newly placed lens and holds it in place.
The artificial lens being made now is modified in such a way that when they are placed inside the capsular bag, the bag, instead of ‘shrink wrapping”, stays open. The basic idea behind this approach is that if the bag stays open, it will allow the fluid within the eye to wash away the left over lens cells, dramatically reducing the chances of secondary cataract formation.
Secondary Cataract Prevention
A dual approach was adopted by studying the human tissue and the cells. The researchers first explored the idea that diluting the growth factors that cause the re-growth of lens cells can prevent secondary cataract.
It was discovered that decrease in the number of the growth factors responsible for re-growth of lens cells, particularly the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), hinders the cellular re-growth. Anti-VEGF drugs are now believed to be the logical new line of anti-cataract drugs. These drugs can help augment the effects of the modified lens and the open bag surgery to prevent secondary cataract.
This study is expected to prove quite fruitful in terms of reduction in the rate of secondary cataract surgery. The follow-up study is all set to be presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Seattle.