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Arch Ophthalmol. 2008 Dec;126(12):1687-93. doi: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2008.507.

Clinical detection of precataractous lens protein changes using dynamic light scattering.

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  • 1National Eye Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892-1860, USA.



To use dynamic light scattering to clinically assess early precataractous lens protein changes.


We performed a cross-sectional study in 380 eyes of 235 patients aged 7 to 86 years with Age-Related Eye Disease Study clinical nuclear lens opacity grades 0 to 3.8. A dynamic light-scattering device was used to assess alpha-crystallin, a molecular chaperone protein shown to bind other damaged lens proteins, preventing their aggregation. The outcome measure was the alpha-crystallin index, a measure of unbound alpha-crystallin in each lens. The association of the alpha-crystallin index with increasing nuclear opacity and aging was determined.


There was a significant decrease in the alpha-crystallin index associated with increasing nuclear lens opacity grades (P < .001). There were significant losses of alpha-crystallin even in clinically clear lenses associated with aging (P < .001). The standard error of measurement was 3%.


Dynamic light scattering clinically detects alpha-crystallin protein loss even in clinically clear lenses. alpha-Crystallin index measurements may be useful in identifying patients at high risk for cataracts and as an outcome variable in clinical lens studies.


The alpha-crystallin index may be a useful measure of the protective alpha-crystallin molecular chaperone reserve present in a lens, analogous to creatinine clearance in estimating renal function reserve.

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