Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How omega-3 fatty acids help prevent several forms of blindness

Date:
February 9, 2011
Source:
Children's Hospital Boston
Summary:
New research reveals exactly how omega-3 fatty acids work in preventing several forms of blindness.

Omega-3 fatty acids -fats commonly found in fish oil -- were shown several years ago to prevent retinopathy, a major form of blindness, in a mouse model of the disease. A follow-up study, from the same research team at Children's Hospital Boston, now reveals exactly how omega-3's provide protection, and provides reassurance that widely used COX-inhibiting drugs like aspirin and NSAIDs don't negate their benefit.

The findings, published in the February 9th issue of Science Translational Medicine, also suggest that omega-3's may be beneficial in diabetes.

Retinopathy -- an eye disease caused by the proliferation of tortuous, leaky blood vessels in the retina -- is a leading cause of blindness, affecting 4.1 million Americans with diabetes (a number expected to double over the next 15 years) and many premature infants. Another 7 million-plus Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD); this too will increase as the population ages. The most common "wet" form of AMD is also caused by abnormal blood vessel growth.

The ability to prevent these "neovascular" eye diseases with omega-3 fatty acids could provide tremendous cost savings, says Children's ophthalmologist Lois Smith, MD, PhD, senior investigator on the study. "The cost of omega-3 supplementation is about $10 a month, versus up to $4,000 a month for anti-VEGF therapy," she says, referring to drugs such as Macugen and Lucentis used in AMD and diabetic retinopathy. "Our new findings give us new information on how omega-3s work that makes them an even more promising option."

Omega-3 fatty acids, highly concentrated in the retina, are often lacking in Western diets, which tend to be higher in omega-6 fatty acids. In Smith's previous study, mice fed diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids by Smith's team had nearly 50 percent less pathologic vessel growth in the retina than mice fed omega-6-rich diets. Smith and colleagues further showed that the omega-3 diet decreased inflammatory messaging in the eye.

In the new study, they document another protective mechanism: a direct effect on blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) that selectively promotes the growth of healthy blood vessels and inhibits the growth of abnormal vessels.

In addition, Smith and colleagues isolated the specific compound from omega-3 fatty acids that has these beneficial effects in mice (a metabolite of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, known as 4-HDHA), and the enzyme that produces it (5-lipoxygenase, or 5-LOX). They showed that COX enzymes are not involved in omega-3 breakdown, suggesting that aspirin and NSAIDs -- taken by millions of Americans -- will not interfere with omega-3 benefits.

"This is important for people with diabetes, who often take aspirin to prevent heart disease, and also for elderly people with AMD who have a propensity for heart disease," says Smith. (One drug used for asthma, zileuton, does interfere with 5-LOX, however.)

Finally, the study demonstrated that 5-LOX acts by activating the PPAR-gamma receptor, the same receptor targeted by "glitazone" drugs such as Avandia, taken by patients with type 2 diabetes to increase their sensitivity to insulin. Since these drugs also increase the risk for heart disease, boosting omega-3 intake through diet or supplements might be a safer way to improve insulin sensitivity in patients with diabetes or pre-diabetes. "There needs to be a good clinical study in diabetes," Smith says.

Smith works closely with principal investigators at the National Eye Institute who are conducting an ongoing multicenter trial of omega-3 supplements in patients with AMD, known as AREDS2. The trial will continue until 2013. An earlier retrospective study, AREDS1, found higher self-reported intake of fish to be associated with a lower likelihood of AMD.

In addition, Smith is collaborating with a group in Sweden that is conducting a clinical trial of omega-3 fatty acids in premature infants, who are often deficient in omega-3. That study will measure infants' blood levels of omega-3 products and follow the infants to see if they develop retinopathy. If results are promising Smith will seek FDA approval to conduct a clinical trial in premature infants at Children's.

Meanwhile, in her lab work, Smith plans to continue seeking beneficial lipid pathways, while looking for the most harmful omega 6 metabolites. "We found the good guys, now we'll look for the bad ones," says Smith. "If we find the pathways, maybe we can selectively block the bad metabolites. We would hope to start with drugs that are already available."

Przemyslaw Sapieha and Andreas Stahl in Smith's lab were co-first authors on the study. Funders include the National Eye Institute, the Children's Hospital Boston Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, Research to Prevent Blindness, the Alcon Research Institute, MacTel Foundation, the Roche Foundation for Anemia Research and the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Children's Hospital Boston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Sapieha, A. Stahl, J. Chen, M. R. Seaward, K. L. Willett, N. M. Krah, R. J. Dennison, K. M. Connor, C. M. Aderman, E. Liclican, A. Carughi, D. Perelman, Y. Kanaoka, J. P. SanGiovanni, K. Gronert, L. E. H. Smith. 5-Lipoxygenase Metabolite 4-HDHA Is a Mediator of the Antiangiogenic Effect of -3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Science Translational Medicine, 2011; 3 (69): 69ra12 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001571

Cite This Page:

Children's Hospital Boston. "How omega-3 fatty acids help prevent several forms of blindness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209151255.htm>.
Children's Hospital Boston. (2011, February 9). How omega-3 fatty acids help prevent several forms of blindness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209151255.htm
Children's Hospital Boston. "How omega-3 fatty acids help prevent several forms of blindness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110209151255.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 22, 2014) Big pharma on the move as Novartis boss, Joe Jimenez, tells Reuters about plans to transform his company via an asset exchange with GSK, and Astra Zeneca shares surge on speculation that Pfizer is looking for a takeover. Joanna Partridge reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Catching More Than Fish: Ugandan Town Crippled by AIDS

Catching More Than Fish: Ugandan Town Crippled by AIDS

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) The village of Kasensero on the shores of Lake Victoria was where HIV-AIDS was first discovered in Uganda. Its transient population of fishermen and sex workers means the nationwide programme to combat the virus has had little impact. Duration: 02:30 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins