• Heriot-Watt University
    Cataract/Anterior Segment

    Scientists in Scotland have developed a technique that may allow clinicians to diagnose and monitor cataracts before they form.

    The idea is that light-emitting diode (LED) technology would cause proteins in the lens to produce a florescence signal. By documenting the changes in the eye’s photochemistry as the cataract forms, an objective scale for diagnosis can be created.

    “While this stage is not a cure for cataracts, we believe it could have wide-reaching benefits such as limiting the symptoms experienced by our increasingly ageing population and those living with diabetes. It could significantly diminish the pressure on our health service," said Professor Rory Duncan, who leads the Institute for Biological Chemistry, Biophysics & Bioengineering at Heriot-Watt University.

    Because the technology identifies how much oxidative damage lens proteins have accumulated through lifestyle or environmental factors, researchers believe that the diagnostic will allow them to determine a patient’s ‘true age’ as opposed to the age on their birth certificate. The accumulated damage may be important in determining risk factors for other age-related conditions.

    "This research brings us one step closer to developing a non-invasive treatment for cataracts,” said lead researcher, Professor Des Smith.

    The team will conduct further studies in pigs to validate the findings, demonstrate safety in humans and explore whether non-invasive treatment is feasible.