News / Health

Dietary Supplement Could Help Prevent Blindness

Out-of-control blood vessels associated with retinopathy as imaged by a scanning electron microscope.
Out-of-control blood vessels associated with retinopathy as imaged by a scanning electron microscope.
Art Chimes

The leading causes of vision loss are related diseases of the retina known as retinopathy. Now, new research explains how a dietary supplement may help to prevent and treat these diseases.

Retinopathy of prematurity affecting infants, diabetic retinopathy in adults and age-related macular degeneration in older people, all involve abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina that interferes with vision.

In this new research, Lois Smith of Harvard Medical School and colleagues detail how omega-3 fatty acids block blood vessel growth in the retina.

They used laboratory mice as a stand-in for human subjects and identified the specific molecules responsible for the beneficial effect. Those molecules are produced when the body breaks down, or metabolizes, the components of the omega-3. The researchers blocked each of those metabolites, one at a time.

"And in doing that," Smith explained, "we then found exactly what the major metabolite was that is protecting the retina during this disease process."

They also found that aspirin and related drugs do not block the beneficial effect. That’s important because many older retinopathy patients regularly take aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Smith says the research may shed some light on other diseases where out-of-control blood vessel growth may play a role.

"The results can be interpreted so that there might be implications for cancer or implications for other disease where blood vessel formation is important, such as rheumatoid arthritis, but we have not done that work in cancer, so we can only suggest that that is an interesting avenue to pursue."

Omega-3 is currently being tested in older patients with age-related macular degeneration, and studies of other retinopathy diseases are planned. If research eventually proves the effectiveness of omega-3 in preventing or treating retinopathy, Smith says the cost savings are potentially enormous.

"The cost of using omega-3 supplements is about $10 a month. The current treatment for age-related macular degeneration costs $4,000 a month. So you can see the difference in health care costs is really huge."

Treating macular degeneration with omega-3 might save almost $50,000 a year. If it’s proved to prevent vision loss in the first place - that’s priceless.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid