A Potential New Treatment For Macular Degeneration

Researchers at The Buck Institute have discovered a broccoli related compound with an extraordinary ability to combat age-related macular degeneration

Macular degeneration (AMD) results in a blurring or loss of vision, is the 4th most common form of blindness, and affected over 23.5 people in 2010 - with the number growing every day. Treatments for the condition are currently lacklustre, but research at The Buck Institute may have developed a novel therapeutic. 

"As we age, there’s a weakening of our ability to cope with environmental stresses such as light, cigarette smoke and pesticides. Within our eyes are pathways that help the eye detoxify and reduce eye stress and hence help forestall AMD”

Better than broccoli

A team lead by lead author Arvind Ramanathan began studying indole compounds isolated from broccoli; running a search on thousands of additional compounds to find more optimal version that could delay or fight AMD. They honed down the list to a compound called 2AI, which was at least 10 times more potent than your classic broccoli derived indole.  

In order to test this new 2AI variant, the team collaborated with Buck faculty member Deepak Lamba, who morphs human stem cells into eye cells. They then 'stressed' these cells in a model of AMD in the presence of 2AI, which appeared to be protective. When they further injected 2AI into mice, it was also found to protect their eyesight. Curiously, the presence of 2AI also induced accumulation of specific lipid molecules, which the researchers theorised were somehow protective. Certain classes of fats are known to be protective against AMD, and 2AI may act through a similar mechanism. 

“2AI prevented cell death in the retinas of mice that were exposed to light stress. We know that eating a diet rich in fish and omega fatty acids reduces the risk of AMD, even though we don’t fully understand the mechanisms involved. This lipid also might be a detoxification agent”

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