In the journal Nature, a study led by the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) shows how a solution containing a natural steroid that can be given via eye drops decreased cataracts in dogs. The lenses in our eyes are made mostly of crystallin proteins that have two jobs to do - they allow us to change focus and they keep the lens clear. Nobody knows exactly how they do this.
Cataracts is a condition that develops when the delicate structure of the crystallin proteins is disrupted and they start to form clumps and make the lens cloudy. The lens is also rich in a molecule called lanosterol that is an essential building block of many important steroids in the body. Lanosterol is synthesized by an enzyme called lanosterol synthase.
The researchers began to look into lanosterol because they found children with an inherited form of cataracts had the same gene mutation that blocked lanosterol synthase. They had a hunch that perhaps in normal eyes, where lenses are enriched with lanosterol, it stops the cataract-forming proteins from clumping.