Researchers, led by Dr Nuran Ercal at Missouri University of Science and Technology are studying eye drops prepared with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine amide (NACA) as a treatment for these eye conditions.
Ercal says NACA is an improvement over another experimental treatment, the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC), because it passes more easily across cell membranes, allowing the medication to be used in lower doses.
"NACA's characteristics as a drug were improved over NAC by neutralizing the carboxylic group of NAC, which makes the NACA pass cellular membranes easily," says Ercal.
"And because NACA can be administered at a lower dose, the drug has a greater therapeutic index and lowers the risk of side effects traditionally associated with NAC.
"NACA is also an excellent source of glutathione, a cell's main antioxidant power, which is diminished during degenerative eye disorders," she said in a statement.
Vision loss from age-related eye disorders affects more than 30 million people in the US and is expected to double in the coming decades, Ercal said.
"NACA eye drops could drastically reduce these costs and represent an alternative to costly surgery, while greatly improving the quality of life for those afflicted," said Ercal.
Ercal and her team have been testing NACA on HIV-related problems, lead poisoning and other toxicities for 10 years. About four years ago they began testing it on eye disorders.
"The NACA solution prevented cataracts from forming," says Ercal.
Ercal says further testing will help establish appropriate dosage and frequency, as well as possible side effects and other factors.