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Omega-3s Slow AMD in Animal Model
It is known that omega-3
fatty acids, particularly DHA,
play an important role in the layer of nerve cells in the retina,
and studies have already reported that omega-3
may protect against the onset of AMD. A meta-analysis, for example,
reported in the June, 2008 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology
found that a high intake of omega-3s
and fish may reduce the risk of AMD by up to 38%. The Australian
authors of this review noted that the benefits of omega-3
were most pronounced against more advanced AMD, while twice weekly
fish consumption was associated with a lower risk of both early
and late AMD (1).
In line with the epidemiologic data, are
the results of a new National Eye Institute study which found
fatty acids could retard the progression of lesions in a murine
mouse model of AMD (2). Even more
intriguing are the findings that mice in the high omega-3
group displayed some reversion of the lesions.
Study Design and Methods
The study evaluated the effects of a high
diet on the retinas of Cc12 - / - / Cx3cr1- / - mice - a model
that develops AMD-like retinal lesions that include focal deep
retinal lesions, abnormal retinal pigment epithelium, photoreceptor
degeneration, and accumulation of A2E, a component of human retinal
lipofuscin (an aging pigment and likely product of lipid peroxidation).
The mice were raised on low or high omega-3
diets, and clinical endpoints were measured using fundus photography,
histopathology, transmission electron microscopy, A2E extraction
and enzyme-linked immunoabsorbant assay to evaluate serum prostaglandin
Mice that were fed the high omega-3
diet showed a slower progression of lesions compared to the low
fed mice. Some mice ingesting the high omega-3
diet exhibited regression of lesions. No retinal lesions were
noted in the normal wild mice used as controls and fed a regular
Compared to the low omega-3
group, mice consuming the omega-3
enriched diet had lower levels of inflammatory molecules such
as prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4, and higher levels of anti-inflammatory
mediators such as prostaglandin D2. Higher omega-3
also resulted in lower IL-6 transcript levels and concentrations
of ocular TNF-alpha, an inflammatory cytokine.
In summary, a diet enriched in EPA
ameliorated the progression of retinal lesions in this useful
animal model of AMD. These results are supportive of the findings
from population health studies, and await further confirmation
in humans by the AREDS 2 trial in progress.
are concentrated in the retina and retinal vascular endothelium,
accounts for about 50% of the lipids in photoreceptor rod outer
segments. Vital retinal functions, including damage repair, depend
on the existence of adequate levels of DHA.
In the eye, the omega-3
fatty acids and their derivatives play an extensive role in many
biologic processes such as the inflammatory cascade, apoptosis
and neuroprotection. In this study, the researchers focused on
the function of the omega-3s
in inflammation, since the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis
of AMD is evident. Arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is
the starting material for the synthesis of pro-inflammatory mediators
such as various cytokines. When fish oil is provided, EPA
are incorporated into cellular membranes at the expense of arachidonic
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