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Eyesight can enhance almost every experience so it’s hard to imagine life without it. Unfortunately, many things can hinder your vision, such as age and underlying health conditions. While there’s currently no treatment for vision loss, new research has identified a potent pill that could target the leading cause of blindness.
If you’ve been gifted with eyesight since your birth, the idea of losing your vision might seem incredibly daunting.
From reading to seeing colours, your eyes are the language between the outside and your inner world.
Worryingly, age and conditions like diabetes can trigger processes that eventually rob you of this remarkable ability.
However, a study suggests that the world’s leading cause of blindness could be treated with a new fish oil pill.
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Scientists have created a form of the omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that protects the eyes.
Unlike similar versions, this pill is able to cross into your retina from the bloodstream.
The team thinks it could halt age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that currently targets more than 600,000 Britons, including Dame Judi Dench.
AMD can make anything from reading to driving difficult, with symptoms including:
- Seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked
- Objects looking smaller than normal
- Colours seeming less bright than they used to
- Seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).
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What’s worse, this eyesight condition is considered a major cause of blindness worldwide as well as the leading cause of vision loss.
Apart from halting AMD, the research team suggested that visual decline in patients with diabetes and dementia may also be stopped with the new pill.
Experiments in mice found LPC (lysophospholipid)-DHA reduced Alzheimer’s-like eye problems.
Lead author Dr Sugasini Dhavamani, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said: “Dietary LPC-DHA is enormously superior and could be potentially beneficial for various retinopathies in patients.
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“This approach provides a novel therapeutic approach for the prevention or mitigation of retinal dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.”
The retina describes a small area of tissue at the back of your eye that contains light sensitive cells, which are maintained by DHA.
It can be damaged by reduced blood flow, which is considered a hallmark of diabetes and dementia.
Therefore, the breakthrough pill has implications for people with AMD, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and retinitis pigmentosa.
Dr Dhavamani said: “Increasing the retinal DHA at clinically feasible doses has not been possible until now because of the specificity of the blood–retinal barrier that is incompatible with the specificity of the intestinal barrier.
“This study uses the novel approach of dietary LPC-DHA that overcomes both intestinal and blood–retinal barriers and improves retinal function.”
After six months of the mice studies, amounts of retinal DHA in those fed LPC-DHA daily showed a 96 percent improvement.
The dosage used in the research was equivalent to about 250 to 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day.
Despite the promising results, further safety studies are currently needed before the research team can test their theory on humans.
Dr Dhavamani presented the findings at a meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Seattle.
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