Possible Future of Cataract Surgery – Regenerated Natural Lens

Cataract is one of the most common causes of significant visual loss worldwide. The treatment of cataract is removal of cataract surgically and implantation of an artificial lens to replace the cataractous lens. These lenses are called intraocular lens (IOL) and are either rigid or foldable depending on the size of the incision through which cataract is removed and the technique used for the surgery.

The intraocular lens helps the patient see clearly after cataract surgery but the IOLs do not have all the properties of a natural lens which we are born with. In the absence of a better solution, ophthalmologists all over the world have been using IOLs for the best visual rehabilitation possible.

A new research in China has shown some promise in regeneration of the natural lens using stem cells from the same individual. The technique of the surgery is different from the traditional cataract surgery. In this method, the lens epithelial cells (LECs) which are normally responsible for the lens formation in embryos, infants and adults, are preserved. These LECs then regenerate a new lens in a few months.

The researchers have tested this method on rabbits, macaques and human babies with encouraging visual outcome.

Basically the opaque parts of the cataractous lens are removed and a thin sheet of lens epithelial cells is left which later regenerates the lens which is transparent and optically functioning.

All cataract patients may not be suitable for visual rehabilitation with this lens regeneration method. More tests and refinement of this technique will be required to determine the category of patients who are best candidates for this kind of surgery.

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