If you’re at or near the age to develop cataracts you’re well aware of the “penny pusher” or “coin pusher” arcade game. Basically you drop a coin in and it lands on a moving platform of other coins. If you drop it at the right time in the right spot, your coin pushes other coins onto a lower platform and you win.
A March 2015 article that appeared at AllAboutVision entitled, Penny Pusher Game Shows How Cataracts May Form, noted that “Researchers studied mouse eyes for four years to see how their lens cells grow and found similarities to the penny pusher game.”
According to the article, the researchers found that cells would tend to multiply in a narrow line on the lens surface. The multiplying cells would push neighboring cells toward the “equator” of the eye’s lens—the equator being an imaginary line that divides the lens into two halves.
Lens cells already at the equator got pushed away from the surface into the center of the lens. Researchers discovered that this may explain how a cataract grows over time. For example, a cataract caused by age forms at the center of the lens, which is the most common type of cataract.
One of the researchers was Steven Bassnet, PhD at Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. In the article Dr. Bassnet noted that researchers are currently examining if mutations in the DNA of each lens cell can transmit to large numbers of cells, “potentially influencing the clarity of the tissue resulting in a cataract.”
Cataracts is a very common condition, relatively simple to treat, and technology has advanced tremendously in just a few years. Yet there is still much to learn about exactly how a cataract forms. Ongoing research such as this has the potential to further improve how cataracts is diagnosed and treated in the near future.