A Swiss research team has been unlocking some of the secrets of cataract formation, the world's leading cause of blindness.
The scientists found that a carefully-preserved balance of attractions between proteins maintains the transparency of the lens of the eye.
Even a small upset to this balance can lead to cloudy vision or blindness.
The eye lens is made up of densely packed crystallin proteins, which are normally arranged to allow light to pass through.
Giuseppe Foffi, a member of the Institut Romand de Recherche Numerique en Physique des Materiaux, said: "By combining experiments and simulations it became possible to quantify that there had to be a weak attraction between the proteins in order for the eye lens to be transparent.
"Our results indicate that cataracts may form if this balance of attractions is disrupted, and this opens a new direction for research into cataract formation."
The researchers hope the work will develop understanding of other protein aggregation diseases, including Alzheimer's disease.
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