Olivia McClure | 4/28/2016 6:09:08 PM
(04/28/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU AgCenter scientists have formulated a nanoparticle matrix that could be used in eye drops to both prevent and treat cataracts, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults.
Professor Cristina Sabliov and assistant professor Carlos Astete in the AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering have found a way to use nanoparticles to efficiently deliver hydrophobic lutein and enhance its stability and antioxidant properties so it can be used effectively in eye drops.
Lutein is a naturally occurring yellow pigment known as a carotenoid. It can be found in numerous plants, including yellow flowers and corn, as well as egg yolks and animal fats.
Lutein can also be found in the human eye. Studies have shown that dietary supplements can help replenish ocular lutein. But treatments using lutein have been limited in the past by the substance’s poor water solubility, its susceptibility to degradation and low absorption efficiency.
“The nanoparticle matrix can deliver lutein to the eye efficiently as an eye drop formulation,” Sabliov said. “Direct application of lutein to the eye in this formulation improves its effect against cataracts.”
The nanoparticle matrix may enhance the benefits of lutein by preventing it from disintegrating before it collects in the eye lens, where cataracts occur, Sabliov said. Improving lutein’s stability would also help it remain in the lens, potentially preventing future damage.
“This new product would have the unique advantage of both being able to prevent cataracts before they start or to treat cataracts after they form,” she said.
Cataracts are a common condition in older adults that causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy and block light from the retina.
There were more than 24 million cases of cataracts in the U.S. in 2010, according to the National Eye Institute. The World Health Organization estimates the condition is responsible for almost 50 percent of blindness worldwide.
Traditional treatment involves surgical removal of cataracts from the eye lens. The lutein eye drops could offer an effective, non-surgical and more accessible treatment option.
The AgCenter is in the process of patenting the technology.
Professor Cristina Sabliov, left, and assistant professor Carlos Astete, of the LSU AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, have formulated a nanoparticle matrix that could be used in eye drops to both prevent and treat cataracts. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter
Cristina Sabliov, professor in the LSU AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, holds a vial of the lutein-based eye drops she and assistant professor Carlos Astete developed to prevent and treat cataracts. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter