carnosine eye drops
The eye drops to melt away cataracts
by MARTYN HALLE, Daily Mail
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
A new eye-drop treatment could save thousands of people from having to undergo
cataract surgery each year.
For 50 years surgeons have been removing cataracts from the front of the eye to
restore vision in the elderly.
Cataract surgery was invented in Britain, but doctors in Russia and China have
been offering patients eye drops that painlessly dissolve the cataract over a
period of months.
The natural chemical in the eye drops is called L-carnosine and it is present in
most muscles and in the eye itself.
Researchers have found that in older people with cataracts there is less of it
than in younger people.
Scientists think that those with low levels of the substance are more prone to
cataracts, a clouding of the lens at the front of the eye that gradually
thickens, eventually leading to blindness if not treated.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common operations in the UK, with 25 per
cent of the over 65s requiring surgery.
There can be long waits for surgery, and although generally safe, there can be
complications _ and up to half of patients will have to have laser surgery when
the eye starts to cloud again.
Professor Steven Gallant, a biochemist at London's Barts Hospital, was the first
British scientist to discover the properties of L-carnosine.
He says: 'My father had cataracts and did not relish going under the knife, so I
started research into what the alternatives were.
'I found there had been substantial research in China and Russia and there are
plenty of doctors using drops as an alternative.
'At the time it was impossible to get the drops and so dad had the surgery. But
now we have better relations with Russia and China.'
Recently, supplies of the drops have become available in the UK.
'The success rates in clearing cataracts are almost 100 per cent over a three to
By doubling the daily dose _ without any harm _ some patients have eradicated
their cataracts in less than seven weeks.
'Results aren't instant but they are quick compared to the length of time
patients are waiting for cataract surgery on the NHS,' says Prof Gallant.
And the health service removes only one cataract at a time, making patients wait
at least six months for each eye. Having the operation privately costs £3,500.
L-carnosine is an amino acid that appears to have the ability of reversing the
ageing process of cells that lead to cataracts.
'L-carnosine is a powerful anti-oxidant, working against chemicals called
oxygen-free radicals that are responsible for the ageing process,' say Prof
After only a few months on the market, the drops are proving a success with
Mary Greenwood's mother, Chan Ah Hei, was nearly blind with two very large
'mature' cataracts needing surgery.
The 79-year-old from Stanmore, Middlesex, started to see an improvement in her
condition after three weeks. She has had cataracts for several years and was
having difficulty getting around.
Now she can move about and is able to read a newspaper for the first time in
years. All that remains of her cataracts are two tiny white spots in the corner
of each eye, which do not affect her vision.
Cataracts occur because the surface of the eye ages, without new cell
development. Doctors believe the combination of ultraviolet light, poor
nutrition and stress can lead to cataracts.
Brian Greaves, a cataract surgeon in Kent who saved his own eyesight using
alternative medicine eye drops, says: 'L-carnosine is a strong anti-oxidant, so
it probably works to a degree.
'But it might need to be combined with something else for greater effect.
'Alternative methods shouldn't be ruled out. I didn't believe a change in diet
and drops containing something called lutein could save my sight. But it did.'