2015 saw a most remarkable scientific discovery concerning the treatment of cataracts.  For the first time a pharmaceutical treatment instead of surgery is a possibility.  Cholesterol-related molecules delivered as eye drops reversed lens clouding.  This is the more remarkable because the effects were seen within a matter of weeks.  These reports also evidenced that these cholesterol-related molecules could reverse clouding in both genetic and age-related cataracts.  Evidence was present to show that similar benefits for isolated human lenses could also be realised.  So it is for these three fundamental reasons that the landscape for new innovative, cataract treatments has changed beyond all recognition.  The colour of that landscape is missing, however, because how the cholesterol-related molecules get into and pass through lens cells and what they do once inside are unknown.  This PhD will answer these questions.

Without knowledge of how cholesterol-related molecules affect transparency, the clinical and scientific communities will neither be able to optimise nor develop nor exploit the discover to the full.  There is both an excitement and a desire to determine how these cholesterol-related molecules can effect such a dramatic change in the transparency of lenses with cataract.

The aim of the PhD is to show how cholesterol-related molecules reverse lens clouding by answering two key questions.  These are:

  • How fast and how far do cholesterol-related molecules penetrate into the lens?
  • How do cholesterol-related molecules increase lens transparency in the nuclear region of the lens where age-related cataracts form?

These questions will be answered by making the cataract-busting molecules visible so we can track their transport into and through living lenses, see where they locate and how long they stay.  We will also identify their effect at the level of individual lens components, eg membranes to understand how lens cloudiness is reversed by cholesterol-related molecules.