London: Scientists have made a discovery about the shape of the eye that could boost the effectiveness of human-made lenses used in cataract operations.
Research carried out by Professor Barbara Pierscionek and a team of fellow vision experts at London`s Kingston University suggests that the way proteins are distributed in the lens of the eye may cause its gradient to be stepped rather than smooth as previously thought.
The finding could give a new insight into the way the eye grows and lead to major improvements in synthetic lenses used in surgery to treat patients who have developed cataracts.
Artificial replacements did not currently match the quality of real ones, Pierscionek said.
"However this research could help give patients better vision if manufacturers use it to develop an improved lens able to change focus," she said in a statement.
Cataracts can occur at any age, but often develop as people get older. Smoking and UV radiation are thought to be causes and they can also occur in people with diseases such as diabetes.
The condition may gradually make vision more blurred and make it difficult to see in poor light. Treatment usually involves replacing the affected lens with an artificial one.
Pierscionek carried out much of her most recent research at Japan`s Spring-8 synchrotron facility - home of the world`s largest third generation synchrotron.
It accelerates electrons close to the speed of light to generate X-rays and other beams.
"These X-rays can penetrate parts of the body and soft tissue better than other forms of radiation. This allows engineers and scientists to look deeply into anything from metal to bacteria," Pierscionek said.