Scientists from the University of Michigan Centre for Chemical Genomics have discovered a new chemical that could be added to eye drops to clear up cataract, an age related disease that leads to blindness. Cataract is a condition that is characterised by clumping together of crucial proteins known as crystallins.
The team during the experiment chalked out a crucial difference between properly folded crystallins and their amyloid forms which are harder to melt. Crystallins are major components of fibre cells which are part of eyes’ lens but their unique properties make them prone to damage. The team during the experiment used high-throughput differential scanning fluorimetry (HT-DSF) to heat amyloids by applying thousands of chemical compounds. The group started off with 2,450 compounds and then scaled it down to 12 that are members of a chemical class known as sterols. One among these is lanosterol that is known to reverse cataract effect. The group therefore had to inject the compound in the eye to make it work. Another compound known as compound 29 prevented crystallins from forming amyloids. Moreover, it also dissolved already formed amyloids.
Current procedures involve removing cataracts through surgery but the treatment is very expensive and many severe cases in developing countries go untreated.