BOSTON – Scientists at Tufts University have found that cataracts are a result of a breakdown in communication between two biochemical pathways in the eye.

Cataracts are the most common eye disease amongst older people and have resulted in six 6 million eye surgeries to prevent vision loss.

The findings of the Tufts study were published early in the Jan. 12 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) say cataracts are caused in part by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the eye that are normally removed by the ubiquitin and lysosomal pathways. They found that when these pathway functions are reduced, calcium flows into the lens cells, causing a third pathway to activate – it is this third pathway that causes cataract-related damage, they say.

Because ubiquitin is found in plants and animals usually consumed, the scientists are trying to define how poor diet quality in aging people contributes to the abnormal accumulation of eye-damaging proteins. They hope to find a new avenue for researching drugs and dietary approaches to treating the common eye problem.

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