Purpose: To evaluate the effects of 1% N-acetylcarnosine (NAC) solution on lens clarity over 6 and 24 months in patients with cataracts.
Trial design: Randomised, placebo-controlled study.
Participants: 49 subjects (76 affected eyes) with an average age of 65.3 +/- 7.0 years with a diagnosis of senile cataract with minimum to advanced opacification in various lens layers.
Methods: 26 patients (41 eyes) were allocated to topical NAC 1% eyedrops twice daily. The control group consisted of 13 patients (21 eyes) who received placebo eyedrops and 10 patients (14 eyes) who did not receive eyedrops.
Main outcome measures: All patients were evaluated at entry and followed up every 2 months for a 6-month period (trial 1), or at 6-month intervals for a 2-year period (trial 2), for best-corrected visual acuity and glare testing. In addition, cataract was measured using stereocinematographic slit-images and retro-illumination examination of the lens. Digital analysis of lens images displayed light scattering and absorbing centres in two- and three-dimensional scales.
Results: The overall intra-reader reproducibility of cataract measurements (image analysis) was 0.830, and glare testing 0.998. After 6 months, 90% of NAC-treated eyes showed improvement in best corrected visual acuity (7 to 100%) and 88.9% showed a 27 to 100% improvement in glare sensitivity. Topographic studies indicated fewer areas of posterior subcapsular lens opacity and 41.5% of treated eyes had improvement in image analysis characteristics. The overall ratios of image analysis characteristics at 6 months compared with baseline measures were 1.04 and 0.86 for the control and NAC-treated group, respectively (p < 0.001). The apparent benefits of treatment were sustained after 24 months' treatment. No treated eyes demonstrated worsening of vision. The overall visual outcome in the control group showed significant worsening after 24 months in comparison with both baseline and the 6-month follow-up examination. The overall clinical results observed in the NAC-treated group by the 24-month period of examination differed significantly (p < 0.001) from the control group in the eyes with cortical, posterior subcapsular, nuclear or combined lens opacities. Tolerability of NAC eyedrops was good in almost all patients, with no reports of ocular or systemic adverse effects.
Conclusion: Topical NAC shows potential for the treatment and prevention of cataracts.