Findings pave way for treatment of secondary cataracts

New research sheds light on the most common vision-compromising complication of cataract surgery

05 Apr 2017 by Selina Powell

A new study has investigated the molecular underpinnings that lead to the formation of posterior capsule opacification (PCO) following cataract surgery.

Between 4–12% of patients who undergo cataract surgery develop PCO, commonly referred to as a secondary cataract.

New research, published in Molecular Biology of the Cellprovides insight into how the growth factor TGF-beta influences the formation of secondary cataracts.

The findings could be used to develop new interventions to prevent PCO formation.

National Eye Institute lens and cataract programme director, Dr Houmam Araj, highlighted to OT that the results illustrated the possibility of targeting specific aspects of the signalling pathway that lead to PCO.

“It should be pointed out that the key to the success of any therapy is the specificity of action of the drug to the molecular target in order to avoid off-target effects and unintended consequences,” he emphasised.

“These results get us closer to that goal,” Dr Araj added.

As part of the research, the study’s lead investigator, Dr Linda Musil, tested multikinase inhibitors as a potential treatment for PCO.

A leukaemia drug, rebastinib, was found to prevent TGF-beta from inducing the formation of microfibroblasts.

Dr Araj explained that while the research was at an early stage, the ultimate goal was to prevent the formation of secondary cataracts.

It was hoped that a drug, such as rebastinib, could be used alongside an intraocular lens at the right concentration to prevent a PCO from forming.

“It is certainly conceivable that this added block would be just enough of a nudge to tip the operated lens into healing as opposed to inflammatory mechanisms and disease,” Dr Araj concluded. 

Image credit: National Eye Institute


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