A neat fix for ageing eyes could be tested in humans next year. The treatment, which involves replacing the contents of the lens in the eye with a soft polymer gel, could allow millions of people to throw away their reading glasses.
"At first, we see it being used as an improvement to current cataract surgery," says Arthur Ho at the University of New South Wales, a key member of the Australian governments multinational Vision Cooperative Research Centre (Vision CRC) that is working on the technique. "But once it is shown to be safe and effective, we think that more and more younger people who are starting to need reading glasses will adopt it as well."
The eyes lens focuses by changing shape. When muscles in the eye relax, the lens is pulled flat to focus on distant objects. When they contract, the lens returns to a fatter shape, bringing closer objects into focus. But as we age, our lenses harden, preventing them reforming into their fatter shape: the lenses of 40-year-old people have only a quarter of their capacity to change shape, or "accommodate", as they did at birth. After the age of 45, most people need reading glasses, or bifocal glasses.
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