New supplement may help slow sight loss in elderly

June 19, 2009

Queen's University Belfast academics have helped develop an antioxidant supplement which may slow down sight loss in elderly people.

The supplement may help those affected by the leading cause of blindness in the Western World, a five-year research programme has found.

Professor Usha Chakravarthy, from Queen's Centre of Vision and Vascular Science (CVVS), co-ordinated the study, which looked at for patients with early age-related macular (AMD) degeneration and found they helped sharpen vision.

Details of the findings are being presented in Belfast today (Friday) by Professor Chakravarthy and Dr Stephen Beatty, Head of Vision Research at the Waterford Institute of Technology.

They co-designed the study and the antioxidant supplement was developed with the advice of Professor Ian Young from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's and scientists in eyecare companies Dr Mann Pharma and Bausch and Lomb.

AMD is an incurable eye disease which causes blurring of central vision because of its effects on the macula, the central part of the retina.

Over 400 people across Ireland took part in clinical trials investigating whether carotenoids, rich antioxidants which are found in fruit and vegetables, could prevent progression to the more serious late AMD.

When the eye disease progresses to late AMD patients are unable to read, watch television or recognise people's faces as they only have peripheral vision, not central vision.

Professor Chakravarthy, who is also a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Royal Hospital in Belfast, said: "Late AMD causes severe sight loss and has a huge economic impact both in terms of the effects of sight loss itself and in terms of the expensive treatments that are needed to deal with the condition.

"Up to 500 people a year in Northern Ireland will lose sight in one or both eyes as a result of late AMD.

"We wanted to carry out the study as prevention of progression to late AMD can result in a reduced financial and societal burden."

As the macula of the eye is very rich in antioxidants the researchers wanted to see if a supplement called CARMA (Caroteneoids and Co-antioxidants in Age-related Maculopathy) containing the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin could help slow down AMD.

The supplement also contained vitamins C,E and Zinc, which had been used in a previous study.

The latest study showed that intake of high levels of both carotenoids preserved the macular pigments, slowing down the progression from early AMD to late AMD.

In contrast, the macular pigments of participants in a placebo group declined steadily.

Dr Chakravarthy added: "These findings are important because this is the first randomised controlled clinical trial to document a beneficial effect through improved function and maintained macular pigments.

"Further research is needed to confirm these findings and to identify the numbers needed to treat to prevent 1 case from progressing from early to late AMD."

Source: Queen's University Belfast

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Scientists find key to regenerating blood vessels

November 23, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a signaling pathway that is essential for angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. The ...

Researchers find infectious prions in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease patient skin

November 22, 2017
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)—the human equivalent of mad cow disease—is caused by rogue, misfolded protein aggregates termed prions, which are infectious and cause fatal damages in the patient's brain. CJD patients ...

Surprising roles for muscle in tissue regeneration, study finds

November 22, 2017
A team of researchers at Whitehead has illuminated an important role for different subtypes of muscle cells in orchestrating the process of tissue regeneration. In a paper published in the November 22 issue of Nature, they ...

Study reveals new mechanisms of cell death in neurodegenerative disorders

November 22, 2017
Researchers at King's College London have discovered new mechanisms of cell death, which may be involved in debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Cinnamon turns up the heat on fat cells

November 21, 2017
New research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has determined how a common holiday spice—cinnamon—might be enlisted in the fight against obesity.

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.