An omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, known as DHA, prevented age-related vision loss in lab tests, demonstrates recently published medical research from the University of Alberta.
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Yves Sauve and his team discovered lab models fed DHA did not accumulate a toxic molecule at the back of the eyes. The toxin normally builds up in the retina with age and causes vision loss.
"This discovery could result in a very broad therapeutic use," says Sauve, whose work was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
"In normal aging, this toxin increases two-fold as we age. But in lab tests, there was no increase in this toxin whatsoever. This has never been demonstrated before - that supplementing the diet with DHA could make this kind of difference."
The team recently started another study, looking at people who have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that results in the loss of central vision and is the main cause of blindness in those over the age of 50. The researchers will look for DNA markers in the blood of study participants. The team wants to determine if participants with certain genetic markers will respond better to increasing amounts of DHA in their diet and if so, why.
Sauve is a researcher in both the Department of Ophthalmology and the Department of Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the U of A.
Various organizations funded the research, but the primary funder was the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).