- PRESS RELEASE -
OIST Principal Investigator Dr. Ichiro MASAI elucidates
Mechanism underlying lens fiber differentiation:
Contribution to therapy of cataract eye disease
Okinawa, Japan, September 13, 2010 — In vertebrates, the lens of the eye consists of epithelial cells and fiber cells. During the differentiation of lens fiber cells in the creation of the eye, subcellular organelles including the nucleus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and Golgi apparatus are degraded, resulting in the transparency of lens fiber cells. However, the mechanism underlying the differentiation of lens fiber cells remains to be elucidated.
Researchers of the OIST Developmental Neurobiology Unit, led by Principal Investigator Dr. Ichiro Masai, have reported their research on the mechanism underlying lens fiber cell differentiation in the scientific journal Development. A cataract is a condition where the lens of the eye becomes increasingly opaque, and is a common eye disease causing vision loss. Cataract formation may be caused by various cellular defects, but the majority (90%) of causes are associated with aging. A survey in 2005 by the Ministry of Welfare in Japan showed that almost 1.3 million people suffer from cataracts, making it the most common eye disease in Japan. In current therapy of cataracts, it is common to surgically remove the lens. However, the increasing opacity of the remaining lens epithelial cells, a process called “posterior cataract opacification”, is a serious complication of cataract surgery. The mechanism underlying lens fiber cell differentiation that we have elucidated is associated with posterior cataract opacification. Their investigations will continue to reveal more about this process and thus improve our ability to treat cataract disease.