In a study of the genetic basis of congenital cataract formation in two families, Kang Zhang and colleagues demonstrate that lanosterol, a sterol present naturally in the lens, can prevent intracellular aggregation of various cataract-causing mutant crystallin proteins. The mutations identified in the genetic study impair the function of lanosterol synthase, an enzyme for synthesizing lanosterol. In dogs with naturally occurring cataracts, the application of eye drops containing lanosterol for six weeks reduced cataract severity and increased lens transparency, suggesting that lanosterol or molecules with similar activity might provide an alternative to surgery for the management of cataracts.
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