Scientists develop ‘pellet’ that can be injected into a patient’s eye to prevent cataracts

Scientists develop ‘pellet’ that can be injected into a patient’s eye to prevent cataracts

  05 Oct 2021   ,

Scientists have developed a ‘pellet’ implant that’s injected into the eye to prevent cataracts forming — and might even reverse the growth of existing cataracts without surgery.

The implant, thought to work by lowering calcium levels in the eye, is being tested in the first clinical trial.

About 350,000 cataract operations are performed in the UK each year, and it’s estimated one in three people aged 65 has a cataract in one or both eyes.

Cataracts are cloudy patches on the lens in the eye, which cause blurred vision and eventual blindness if left untreated.

Most cataracts develop as a result of age-related changes in the lens, specifically oxidative stress. This occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals (unstable atoms that damage cells) and antioxidants (which keep free radicals in check).

Cells in the body produce both, though factors such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and exposure to chemicals can speed up production of free radicals.

Scientists have developed a ‘pellet’ implant that’s injected into the eye to prevent cataracts forming — and might even reverse the growth of existing cataracts without surgery (stock image)

Scientists have developed a ‘pellet’ implant that’s injected into the eye to prevent cataracts forming — and might even reverse the growth of existing cataracts without surgery (stock image)

As we age, fewer antioxidants are produced, resulting in oxidative stress, which leads to tissue damage (with proteins and fibres in the lens beginning to break down), and a build-up of calcium in the lens.

Cataracts can also be linked to conditions such as diabetes, and to medications, including long-term use of steroids.

The cloudy lens can be replaced in a 30-minute operation under local anaesthetic — the surgeon makes a tiny cut in the eye to remove the lens and replace it with a plastic one.

The implant treatment, NPI-002, from U.S.-based Nacuity Pharmaceuticals, could mean such surgery is no longer needed.

The implant is loaded with antioxidants and injected into the vitreous — the gel-like fluid between the lens and retina (the light-sensitive area in the eye).

The implant slowly releases its contents into the vitreous, which carries them to the lens where it acts on the cataract. The solution includes N-acetylcysteine amide (NACA), an effective antioxidant.

About 350,000 cataract operations are performed in the UK each year, and it’s estimated one in three people aged 65 has a cataract in one or both eyes (stock image)

About 350,000 cataract operations are performed in the UK each year, and it’s estimated one in three people aged 65 has a cataract in one or both eyes (stock image)

An animal study by ophthalmologists at Washington University in the U.S. and other centres, reported in the journal BMC Ophthalmology in 2018, showed the implant prevented and reduced the severity of cataracts.

It also led to an increase in protective antioxidants and reduced calcium levels to 2.5 times lower than in a control group.

The first human trial, in the U.S., will start soon and will involve 30 patients aged 65 and over with cataracts.

Gwyn Williams, a consultant ophthalmologist at Singleton Hospital in Swansea, said: ‘It is a very interesting idea and I look forward to seeing the results.

‘Cataracts are multifactorial and I am sceptical whether this one approach will be effective by itself, though this remains to be seen.’

Oily fish can stop deafness but only if you’re a woman

Eating oily fish can prevent hearing loss in women but doesn’t seem to help men, say scientists from Madrid University in Spain.

The team analysed the diets of 105,000 men and women and found that women who ate the most oily fish, which is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), were 31 per cent less at risk of hearing problems, reports the European Journal of Nutrition.

The researchers believe this is due to PUFAs reducing chronic inflammation, thought to play a role in hearing loss.

More research into why it made no difference to men is planned.

A Covid vaccine in pill form is being tested in a small trial in Israel. The pill has a barrier coating to protect the vaccine from being broken down high up in the digestive tract before it can reach the bloodstream via the gut. The trial of the Oravax pill, developed by Oramed, involves 24 volunteers, none of whom have had another vaccine.

SIMPLE STEPS 

Simple changes to your everyday routine can boost your health. This week: Socialise more

Chatting with a number of different people each day may improve your memory and reduce the risk of diseases such as dementia, according to researchers from Pennsylvania State University in America.

They asked 312 older adults to track the number, quality and closeness of their daily social interactions for 16 days, and to complete memory-based tests on a mobile phone.

Those who had more frequent daily social interactions had a better memory and responded faster in tests.

Writing in the journal PLoS One, the researchers suggested close relationships may indicate someone has greater levels of emotional support, which prevents stress (a risk factor for declining memory).

Increased social interaction may also mean that they’re participating in other activities, such as exercise.

Chatting with a number of different people each day may improve your memory and reduce the risk of diseases such as dementia, according to researchers from Pennsylvania State University in America (stock image)

Chatting with a number of different people each day may improve your memory and reduce the risk of diseases such as dementia, according to researchers from Pennsylvania State University in America (stock image)

Could flashes of light help memory loss?

Goggles that deliver flashes of light to the brain might help Alzheimer’s patients — or that’s what a U.S. trial hopes to confirm.

Researchers from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will test the device, which flashes light 40 times per second, to see if it can help with symptoms of the brain disease, including daytime sleepiness and agitation. In studies on mice, the light increased gamma brain wave activity, known to be involved in learning and memory, and thought to be reduced in people with Alzheimer’s.

In the study, patients with early signs of the disease will use either the light-delivery system or a different type of light (a lamp, for example).

EAT MORE 

Dark chocolate may make exercise easier in middle age. In a study at Liverpool Hope University, 17 sedentary adults were given either a capsule filled with cocoa flavanol (found in dark chocolate) or a placebo for a week, then asked to complete fitness tests on an exercise bike. Those who had the flavanol had a faster oxygen uptake when exercising, making it easier, reports the European Journal of Applied Physiology. Flavanol increases blood flow, boosting the uptake of oxygen.

Those who had the flavanol had a faster oxygen uptake when exercising, making it easier, reports the European Journal of Applied Physiology (stock image)

Those who had the flavanol had a faster oxygen uptake when exercising, making it easier, reports the European Journal of Applied Physiology (stock image)

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