Different experimental approaches in modelling cataractogenesis
Cataract, the opacification of eye lens, is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. At present, the only remedy is surgical removal of the cataractous lens and substitution with a lens made of synthetic polymers. However, besides significant costs of operation and possible complications, an artificial lens just does not have the overall optical qualities of a normal one. Hence it remains a significant public health problem, and biochemical solutions or pharmacological interventions that will maintain the transparency of the lens are highly required. Naturally, there is a persistent demand for suitable biological models. The ocular lens would appear to be an ideal organ for maintaining culture conditions because of lacking blood vessels and nerves. The lens in vivo obtains its nutrients and eliminates waste products via diffusion with the surrounding fluids. Lens opacification observed in vivo can be mimicked in vitro by addition of the cataractogenic agent sodium selenite (Na2SeO3) to the culture medium. Moreover, since an overdose of sodium selenite induces also cataract in young rats, it became an extremely rapid and convenient model of nuclear cataract in vivo. The main focus of this review will be on selenium (Se) and its salt sodium selenite, their toxicological characteristics and safety data in relevance of modelling cataractogenesis, either under in vivo or in vitro conditions. The studies revealing the mechanisms of lens opacification induced by selenite are highlighted, the representatives from screening for potential anti-cataract agents are listed.
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