Researchers at Louisiana State University have formulated drops made of nanoparticles that are able to efficiently deliver into the eye lens the natural substance called lutein–which is plentiful in youthful eyes, but diminishes in old age.
Lutein is a naturally occurring yellow pigment known as a carotenoid and found in many plants, including yellow flowers and corn, as well as egg yolks and animal fats.
The lutein currently available as a dietary supplement can help replenish ocular lutein, but the benefits are limited due to the substance’s poor water solubility, its susceptibility to degradation and low absorption efficiency.
The nanoparticle matrix may enhance the benefits of lutein by preventing it from disintegrating before it collects in the eye lens, where cataracts occur, Professor Cristina Sabliov said. Improving lutein’s stability would also help it remain in the lens, potentially preventing future damage.
The lutein eye drops, which the AgCenter is in the process of patenting, could offer an effective, non-surgical treatment option that would be available in developing countries around the world.
Tests on rats have been successful in reducing the size of cataracts in just one week, but the team expects further animal tests and human tests to take years before the eye drops can hit the market.