Resveratrol May Protect Against Multiple Eye Diseases
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Vision researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine1 in St. Louis are the first to identify a new gene pathway by which resveratrol protects the circulation within your eyes. This new science is directly relevant to helping with several eye problems associated with aging: macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Angiogenesis is the process by which new blood vessels form from existing blood vessels. This is a natural process involved with growth and wound healing. The process can also be hijacked, as in the case of tumors that seek to set up a blood supply for themselves. And it can be made chaotic, as a failed compensating mechanism for wear and tear. For example, in macular degeneration abnormal blood vessels form beneath the retina – literally getting in the way of vision. In diabetic retinopathy these abnormal blood vessels form directly in the retina. In either case there is a loss of vision quality with the potential for blindness. The formation of these troublesome new blood vessels is driven by the process of angiogenesis gone awry, an effort to maintain blood supply to an area of the eye that is in distress.
In cell and animal experiments the researchers showed that resveratrol prevents this abnormal formation of blood vessels and can even get rid of abnormal blood vessels that have already formed. A specific gene pathway was identified for the first time which showed resveratrol’s mechanism of action. Interestingly, this mechanism was different from the well-documented SIRT1 activity of resveratrol that is associated with many of its anti-aging benefits.
In addition to eye problems this same gene signaling problem is present in cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. “We have identified a novel pathway that could become a new target for therapies,” says Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD, the study’s senior investigator. “And we believe the pathway may be involved both in age-related eye disease and in other diseases where angiogenesis plays a destructive role…This could potentially be a preventive therapy in high-risk patients. And because it worked on existing, abnormal blood vessels in the animals, it may be a therapy that can be started after angiogenesis already is causing damage.”
The dose of resveratrol used in the study was higher than would be available from red wine, requiring dietary supplementation of the nutrient
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