Ancient berry could fight diabetic blindness

June 5, 2012
(L-R) Professor Basil Roufogalis and Min Song with goji berry extract.

(Medical Xpress) -- The ancient Tibetan goji berry could help fight blindness caused by long-term diabetes according to studies conducted by University of Sydney researchers.

Faculty of Pharmacy researchers have conducted in vitro tests investigating the potential power of the berry which is now a popular .

According to lead researcher, University of Sydney Professor of Basil Roufogalis, the goji berry is abundant in taurine, an ingredient credited with anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulating properties which could protect the retina.

"Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness for people with diabetes, with up to 60 percent of people living with either type 1 or developing chronic hyperglycaemia, a condition which can damage retina cells," explains Professor Roufogalis.

"Typically what happens is proteins in the eye become oxidated and force to die.

"What's more, blood vessels build up in the retina and grow over the vision spot, which can result in ."

The pharmacy researchers initially undertook work showing the goji berry and its taurine component activated a protein called PPAR-gamma. This protein plays a crucial role in regulating the retinal cells. This paved the way for further investigation of Lycium barbarum (goji) and its potential to activate the PPAR-gamma receptor.

"First we looked at the protective effect of pure taurine, and an extract of goji berry rich in taurine, in retinal barrier epithelial cells exposed to high glucose - a cell line that can serve as a model to emulate diabetic retinopathy," said Professor Roufogalis.

"We found that goji berry protected against the death of cells caused by high concentrations of glucose in the retina. This protection occurred in parallel with the activation by the extract of the receptor protein (PPAR-gamma). The pure taurine found in the extract mimicked the effects of the goji berry extract.

"We then wanted to see whether the same extracts of goji berry and its pure taurine had an effect on protecting the retinal barrier against toxin invasion when the barrier is typically damaged by high glucose in diabetes patients.

"What we found is that both the pure taurine and the taurine-laden goji berry extract protected the retina against increased permeability of the protective barrier through its actions on the PPAR-gamma receptor, thereby helping the epithelial cells that provide the protective barrier to the retina.

"We are hopeful that these promising results for treating or preventing will lead to human clinical trials," said Professor Roufogalis.

Min Song, also from the Faculty of Pharmacy, received a National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) PhD scholarship to assist in the groundbreaking research. NICM, hosted by the University of Western Sydney, was launched in 2007 to facilitate strategic research in complementary medicine in Australia.

Professor Alan Bensoussan, director of NICM, hailed the novel research. "This is pioneering scientific research in the field of herbal medicine, and is to be applauded for investigating novel ways to address the debilitating effects of diabetes, which is such a pressing global health problem," he said.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

High prevalence of diabetes, prediabetes in China

June 27, 2017

A large, nationally representative survey in 2013 of adults in China finds that the estimated overall prevalence of diabetes was about 11 percent and that of prediabetes was nearly 36 percent, according to a study published ...

Many diabetes patients produce some insulin

June 22, 2017

Some insulin is still produced in almost half of patients that have had type 1 diabetes for more than ten years. The study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden has now been published online by the medical ...

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.