Prospective Drug Could Prevent Secondary Cataracts

Anti-VEGF treatments and better artificial lenses could prevent secondary cataract surgery.

A recent study published by Scientific Reports has potentially found a new way to prevent surgery due to secondary cataracts.

After cataract surgery, there are always a few natural lens cells that remain in the eye. These cells eventually spread across the underside of the artificial replacement lens, which can obstruct vision and usually leads to follow-up surgery.

"Secondary visual loss responds well to treatment with laser surgery. But as life-expectancy increases, the problems of cataract and posterior capsule opacification will become even greater in terms of both patient well-being and economic burden,” said study lead author Michael Wormstone, PhD, BSc. “It's essential that we find better ways to manage the condition in future."

New artificial lenses are being designed that allow fluid to flow around the artificial lens and wash away molecules that encourage re-growth.

In the current study, researchers used human cells and tissues to test whether diluting the growth factor can prevent cells invading the posterior capsule and also to find which growth factors drive the process in order to develop future drug treatments.

"Our results show that reducing the amount of growth factor that's available around the intraocular lens significantly impedes cell invasion and adds to the evidence in favor of open-bag cataract surgery,” said Dr. Wormstone. "Moreover, we found that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays an important role in cell growth and survival. Therefore, we believe that anti-VEGF treatment is a logical target for new drug treatments that could help enhance the effect of better lens design and placement, to prevent secondary cataract."

Researchers hope to develop further treatments from this research.

“These are encouraging results, with research to develop new intraocular lenses that incorporate anti-VEGF treatment into their design as a potential next step. Whether this will work depends on many factors including the safety of anti-VEGF treatment in this part of the eye. However, its current use as a treatment to block new blood vessel growth in the wet form of age-related macular degeneration means there is already a body of research from which we can perhaps draw useful insights,” concluded Dolores M Conroy, PhD, Fight for Sight's director of research.