Scientists have developed a type of “pellet” implant that can be injected into the eye to prevent cataracts from forming. They believe it could even reverse the growth of existing cataracts without surgery. Cataracts are cloudy patches that form in the lens of the eye and cause blurred vision and eventual blindness if untreated. The pellet works by reducing calcium levels in the eye. Cataracts usually develop through oxidative stress, which occurs naturally with aging. Oxidative stress happens when there are more free radicals (unstable atoms that damage cells) than antioxidants (that prevent free radicals from doing damage). As we get older, the body makes fewer antioxidants, and this can lead to too much calcium in the lens. Usually, these cloudy lenses are replaced through surgery. The new pellet implant, NPI-002, from Nacuity Pharmaceuticals, is filled with antioxidants and may become a surgery-free treatment path for cataracts. A recent animal study demonstrated the implant successfully reduced the seriousness of cataracts, and a new clinical trial that will enroll 30 patients aged 65 or older with cataracts is expected to start soon in the US.
What this means for Usher syndrome: Cataracts often cause the central vision of individuals with Usher syndrome to decline. This pellet implant could provide a treatment for cataracts without normal cataract surgery, and may also pave the way for the injection of other treatments into the eye.