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Vitamin A may be key to preventing Stargardt's.

STOPPING VITAMIN A from forming toxic clumps could slow down the progression of Stardgardt disease, according to new research from the University of Oxford.

Stargardt's affects an estimated one in 10,000 people, affecting children as young as six. The condition causes degeneration of the macula, leading to a build up of lipofuscin in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and gradual loss of central vision.

In people with Stargardt's, toxic clumps can form from vitamin A through a process called dimerisation, which had been suggested as a cause of the disease.

These clumps are believed to cause chronic inflammation and exacerbate accumulation of lipofuscin and the premature ageing process in the retina.

Researchers tinkered with vitamin A by switching its hydrogen for a heavier form, called deuterium, at a key point in the molecule. When the modified vitamin A was given to mice displaying Stargardt's symptoms it did not form the clumps and subsequently reduced the amount of lipofuscin build up in the retina --reducing the inflammation and progression of the disease.

Dr Peter Charbel Issa, who led the team and is now at the University of Bonn in Germany, said: "If we can reduce the rate at which vitamin A dimerises, we could reduce the genetically-induced build-up of lipofuscin and slow down the progress of retinal degeneration"

The research is published in the journal PNAS.

RYAN O'HARE

ryano'hare@optometry.co.uk

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Author:O'Hare, Ryan
Publication:Optometry Today
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 27, 2015
Words:232
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