"We have shown that this non-invasive technology that was developed for the space program can now be used to look at the early signs of protein damage due to oxidative stress, a key process involved in many medical conditions, including age-related cataract and diabetes, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," said NASA's Dr. Ansari. "By understanding the role of protein changes in cataract formation, we can use the lens not just to look at eye disease, but also as a window into the whole body."
The recent NEI-NASA clinical trial, reported in the December 2008 Archives of Ophthalmology, looked at 380 eyes of people aged 7 to 86 who had lenses ranging from clear to severe cloudiness from cataract. Researchers used the DLS device to shine a low-power laser light through the lenses. They had previously determined alpha-crystallin's light-scattering ability, which was then used to detect and measure the amount of alpha-crystallin in the lenses.
They found that as cloudiness increased, alpha-crystallin in the lenses decreased. Alpha-crystallin amounts also decreased as the participants' ages increased, even when the lenses were still transparent. These age-related, pre-cataract changes would remain undetected by currently available imaging tools.
"This research is a prime example of two government agencies sharing scientific information for the benefit of the American people," said NEI director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. "At an individual level, this device could be used to study the effectiveness of anti-cataract therapies or the tendency of certain medications to cause cataract formation."
The DLS technique will now assist vision scientists in looking at long-term lens changes due to aging, smoking, diabetes, LASIK surgery, eye drops for treating glaucoma, and surgical removal of the vitreous gel within the eye
|Contact: NEI News Office|
NIH/National Eye Institute