Oven Cleaner For Eyes June 25, 2007Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Diseases, Drugs, Human Body, Tough Stuff.
Before you totally cringe at the title, let me explain. Believe me, I cringed myself when I first heard about this new research. It sounded like something out of a very icky horror movie. The new treatment for glaucoma, however, really does use a substance that is also found in oven cleaners to remove grease. But first, let’s talk a little bit about what glaucoma is and then we’ll see how oven cleaners come into the picture.
Is Glaucoma A Name For One Of Those Diseases I’ll Never Get?
Actually, glaucoma affects a lot of people. Younger people can get it but it is more common in people over 50. That may seem like a long way off, but think about your parents or grandparents-they will be at a higher risk for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that result in the loss of sight. The vision loss happens from damage to your eye’s optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images from your eye to the brain.
According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. Is that because people just don’t treat it? Partly, yep. A lot of people don’t know they have glaucoma, so they don’t get treatment. In fact, even if everyone gets treatment, it’s estimated that around 10% will still become blind. A scary thought. Also, treatment can help but there is no cure. So, it makes sense that scientists are researching ways to help people who have glaucoma. That’s where the oven cleaner bit comes in.
The name is almost like something from outer space, but it’s a really neat concept. Sudipta Seal, a researcher from the University of Central Florida, was testing nanoceria, or cerium oxide nanoparticles if you want the full geeky name, to use as a catalyst (something that speeds up a chemical reaction) for removing the gunky debris on oven walls. He suddenly realized, however, that there might be a way to apply the concept medically. You may be wondering: Isn’t that really dangerous? Well, any medical concept potentially could be so they have to check for toxicity and this is done with laboratory animals. Oddly enough, the nanoceria didn’t irritate the animals’ eyes and that’s when the researchers realized that nanoceria might be an effective new way to transport drugs into a person’s eyes.
What Makes Nanoceria Better Though?
Well we have to compare them to the current treatments. The current eye treatments for glaucoma involve eye drops. These eye drops are meant to treat the abnormal fluid build-up that happens in the eye of a person who has glaucoma. To do so, they need to first get through the cornea. The cornea sits in front of the colored part of the eye and helps your eye to focus as light travels through. It’s sort of like a nice, clear window that houses important bits and pieces that provide you with healthy vision. The problem is that the chemicals in the eye drops have a hard time getting through the cornea.
The Power Of Nanoceria
The nanoceria can get through the cornea. Unlike the bigger, often abrasive polymers used in current eye drops, the tiny nanoparticles can safely get through the cornea. Remember that scientist I mentioned called Sudipta Seal? Well, along with his colleague Sanku Mallik, they both combined the nanoceria with a compound that blocks the hCAII enzyme. The hCAII enzyme produces fluid build-up, causing optic nerve damage and leading to glaucoma. This means that finding a way to successfully get the compound that blocks it past the cornea is really important for treating glaucoma. So, although the nanoceria themselves don’t treat glaucoma, they help by transporting the compound that can help.
Clear, Healthy Vision
It’s easy to take our vision for granted and assume that it will always be there. Still, even if you never suffer from glaucoma or at least not anytime soon, an older member of your family might. Try to imagine what it would be like if they couldn’t see. Now after you finish reading this, I want you to close your eyes for just a minute, and imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t see.