Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids protect against the development and progression of retinopathy, a deterioration of the retina, in mice. This is the major finding of a study that appears in the July 2007 issue of the journal Nature Medicine. The study was a collaborative effort by researchers at Childrens Hospital Boston, the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Womens Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Goteborg in Sweden, and the National Eye Institute (NEI) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI, said, This study explores the potential benefit of dietary omega-3 fatty acids in protecting against the development and progression of retinal disease. The study gives us a better understanding of the biological processes that lead to retinopathy and how to intervene to prevent or slow disease.
The researchers studied the effect of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, derived from fish, and the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid on the loss of blood vessels, the re-growth of healthy vessels, and the growth of destructive abnormal vessels in a mouse model of oxygen-induced retinopathy. The retinopathy in the mouse shares many characteristics with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in humans. ROP is a disease of the eyes of prematurely born infants in which the retinal blood vessels increase in number and branch excessively, sometimes leading to bleeding or scarring. Infants who progress to a severe form of ROP are in danger of becoming permanently blind. There are also aspects of the disease process that may apply to diabetic retinopathy, a disease in which blood vessels swell and leak fluid or grow abnormally on the surface of the retina, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease of the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision, and
Contact: Anna Harper
NIH/National Eye Institute