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New fish oil capsule could treat world’s leading cause of blindness: discovery

A new form of fish oil supplement could be a breakthrough treatment for the world’s leading cause of blindness, according to a peer-reviewed study released this week.

Researchers have created a first-of-its-kind omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid — which protects the eyes — that can cross into the retina from the bloodstream to help with visual declines linked to conditions including Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

“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,” Dr. Sugasini Dhavamani, a research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a statement. 

“This study uses the novel approach of dietary LPC-DHA that overcomes both intestinal and blood-retinal barriers and improves retinal function.”

Dr. Dhavamani will present the research this week in Seattle at Discover BMB, the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The fish oil capsules could prevent age-related macular degeneration — an eye disease that causes a loss or blurring of central vision.

AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults, affecting one in 10 Americans over the age of 50, and can occur in two forms: “dry” (atrophic) and “wet” (exudative), according to the American Optometric Association.

In 2019, about 19.8 million people aged 40 and older had AMD, and of these, 1.49 million were living with vision threatening AMD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Risk factors for AMD include age, eating a diet with a lot of saturated fat, smoking and high blood pressure, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Scientists believe that this new fish oil supplement could also prevent visual declines in patients with Alzheimer’s, diabetes, dementia and other disorders.

Researchers tested the omega-3 supplement on mice that have processes that mirror those in patients with early onset Alzheimer’s, using dosages equivalent to 250 to 500 milligrams per day in humans.

After six months of tests, the study authors found that the amount of DHA in the mice that were fed LPC (lysophospholipid)-DHA every day had a 96% improvement rate with the fish oil preserving the structure and function of the retina.

Through experiments in mice, researchers found that LPC-DHA reduced eye problems related to Alzheimer’s disease.

However, supplements currently on the market and available in stores had no effect on levels or efficiency.

“Dietary LPC-DHA is enormously superior to TAG-DHA in enriching retinal DHA and could be potentially beneficial for various retinopathies in patients,” Dr. Dhavamani said. “This approach provides a novel therapeutic approach for the prevention or mitigation of retinal dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.”

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