Breakthrough in cataract diagnosis and treatment

Research led by Professor Des Smith, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Professor Rory Duncan will develop a new system for diagnosing cataracts that could save millions of pounds in unnecessary operations and relieve pressure on health providers globally.

Around 10 million cataract removal operations are performed globally each year and in the UK, over half of people who are over 65 have cataracts in one or both eyes.

A new diagnostic tool

Now, with partner organisations, the Heriot-Watt team is developing a tool that will measure cataracts at a molecular level and, for the first time, give clinicians an objective scale against which to decide whether patients need to have surgery.

The new diagnostic tool relies on examining a fluorescence signal from proteins in the eye lens that are known to have a role in cataract formation. By documenting the changes to the photochemistry of the eye during cataract formation, the team will develop a clear, objective scale for cataract diagnosis. The team is also working towards a non-invasive therapy of cataracts.

Funding partners

The research has received £3 million of funding from the UK Medical Research Council, the European Commission and a range of commercial partners.