(5 December 2002)
Significant new findings from an internationally recognised research programme at the University of Durham could lead to the development of novel treatments for cataract patients.
Professor Roy Quinlan, the scientist leading the team at the University's Integrative Cell Biology Laboratory (ICBL) publishes his preliminary findings this month in EMBO Journal one of the world's leading Journals in Molecular and Cell Biology. The research suggests a new dimension to cataract, cause of one of the most frequent NHS surgical operations.
Professor Quinlan said:" The development of novel treatments for cataract are needed to maintain and improve our current treatment capacity in the UK and also to make an impact on the estimated 100 million cataracts in the world. This is currently hindered by our incomplete understanding of the process(es) of cataract formation in the eye lens. In Durham we have discovered one of the mechanisms that cause cataract and this turns out to be similar in mechanism to other important human diseases, such as Huntingtons Disease. The work in Durham is committed to finding out what causes cataract as one of several research objectives of the group to determine how to keep eye lenses clearer for longer".
The remarkable finding that inherited cataract has similarities to some neurodegenerative diseases has been reported in the EMBO Journal. This research calls for a reinvestigation of cataracts in general and particularly age-related cataracts, which are the single biggest cause of sight impairment in this country.
To solve age related-cataract and develop an alternative to current surgical treatments, the biological basis of lens optical quality must be understood. The cataract discovery reported here and other studies by the Durham group make an important contribution to this very important research goal. Professor Quinlan comments, "The possibility of developing drug therapies to combat cataract would represent a tremendous advance for world health. Most of the cataract sufferers in the world will remain untreated because of the lack of worldwide resources. Cataract has a huge socio-economic impact and it represents a very significant and growing medical problem in the world due to increased life expectancy and growing populations that demands new treatment strategies. In the UK there are over 250,000 new cases every year. Our research lays the foundation to develop more economic and available treatments for cataract"