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New Study Suggests Potential Treatment for Cataract Complication


June 21, 2019

PCOM researchers have found reducing the amount of Myo/Nog cells in the lens could reduce the severity of posterior capsule opacification, or secondary cataract.


Myo/Nog cells, discovered more than 30 years ago by Mindy George-Weinstein, PhD, professor and chief research and science officer, and Jacquelyn Gerhart, MS, laboratory coordinator and bio-Imagining facility director, are like the Jekyll and Hyde of cells: in the embryo, they are critical for normal development of the brain, eyes, heart and muscles; in adults, they participate in wound healing and protect neurons. But in other tissues—like the lens of the eye— they contribute to a vision-impairing disease called posterior capsule opacification (PCO), which may develop after cataract surgery.

Often called a secondary cataract, PCO is caused when Myo/Nog cells migrate to normally cell-free areas of the lens and form muscle-like cells called myofibroblasts. These contract and produce wrinkles in the capsule surrounding the lens of the eye, leading to a decline in visual acuity.

In a recent paper featured on the cover of Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Research, Dr. George-Weinstein, Ms. Gerhart and their research team found that in the animal model, eliminating Myo/Nog cells in lenses undergoing cataract surgery significantly reduced the severity of PCO to clinically insignificant levels.

Myo/Nog cells were killed in the lens with a novel drug developed in collaboration with scientists at Genisphere, LLC. This drug specifically targeted the Myo/Nog cells with no observable side effects in surrounding tissues. A month after cataract surgery (roughly the equivalent of two years in humans), few Myo/Nog cells remained in the lens, with minimal, if any, wrinkles in the capsule.

Previous studies conducted by this group demonstrated that Myo/Nog cells are present in the human lens. “Our next steps are to explore additional methods of drug delivery to prolong its activity and continue to monitor its safety in animal models to pave the way for eventual clinical trials in humans,” said Dr. George-Weinstein. “We envision that this drug could be injected into all patients undergoing cataract surgery in order to prevent PCO and preserve vision.”

Additional members of the PCOM community that contributed to this study include Arturo Bravo-Nuevo, PhD, associate professor of biomedical sciences; Colleen Withers (DO ’21); and lab support staff members Joseph Infanti and Fathma Abdalla. Their research team and colleagues at other universities are studying the roles of Myo/Nog cells in the retina, brain, skin, liver and tumors.

For more on this innovative work, read “Groundbreaking Microscopic and Macroscopic Discoveries,” written by Janice Fisher, in Issue 1, 2017 of Digest.

Learn more about other current research projects at PCOM.


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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, mental health counseling, organizational development and leadership, physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration. Our students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations in inner city and rural locations. For more information, visit pcom.edu.

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Renee Cree
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