Touching Lives - September 2018
Steps towards saving children’s sight
Research funded by Action has taken significant steps towards a new treatment approach that could revolutionise the treatment of cataracts, especially in children.
Although usually associated with older people, each year around 200 UK babies are born with cataracts – and worldwide it is a major cause of childhood blindness.
Current treatment is to replace the diseased lens in the eye with an artificial one. But this isn’t always successful and, even if it is, these lenses cannot focus as well as natural ones, meaning children still face a lifetime of restricted vision.
With funding of £191,000, researchers based in Aberdeen and Belfast, led by Professor Colin McCaig, have made important discoveries that show it could one day be possible for the eye to regenerate a new lens itself.
Their work showed that lens growth is driven by electrical signals in the eye – and that by harnessing these signals it should be possible to promote lens regeneration.
They also discovered a natural chemical that can boost the electrical signals, making them more effective. This chemical also reduced the formation of cataracts in a laboratory model and the team now plan to develop it as a medicine to prevent and treat cataracts.
If complete lens regeneration can be achieved, it will transform cataract treatment, meaning children will be able to have a fully functional lens throughout life.