* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received July 28, 2021; Revised September 30, 2021; Accepted September 30, 2021
The absence of cellular organelles in fiber cells and very high cytoplasmic protein concentration (up to 900 mg/ml) minimize light scattering in the lens and ensure its transparency. Low oxygen concentration, powerful defense systems (antioxidants, antioxidant enzymes, chaperone-like protein alpha-crystallin, etc.) maintain lens transparency. On the other hand, the ability of crystallins to accumulate age-associated post-translational modifications, which reduce the resistance of lens proteins to oxidative stress, is an important factor contributing to the cataract formation. Here, we suggest a mechanism of cataractogenesis common for the action of different cataractogenic factors, such as age, radiation, ultraviolet light, diabetes, etc. Exposure to these factors leads to the damage and death of lens epithelium, which allows oxygen to penetrate into the lens through the gaps in the epithelial layer and cause oxidative damage to crystallins, resulting in protein denaturation, aggregation, and formation of multilamellar bodies (the main cause of lens opacification). The review discusses various approaches to the inhibition of lens opacification (cataract development), in particular, a combined use of antioxidants and compounds enhancing the chaperone-like properties of alpha-crystallin. We also discuss the paradox of high efficiency of anti-cataract drugs in laboratory settings with the lack of their clinical effect, which might be due to the late use of the drugs at the stage, when the opacification has already formed. A probable solution to this situation will be development of new diagnostic methods that will allow to predict the emergence of cataract long before the manifestation of its clinical signs and to start early preventive treatment.
KEY WORDS: lens, cataract, pathogenesis, crystallins, small heat shock proteins, anti-cataract drugs