Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an irreversible blinding disease caused by genetics and external factors such as smoking, high blood pressure or obesity.
The disease affects the central vision, which people use for reading and recognizing faces.
Previous research has shown that retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the eye can become damaged due to poor nutrition. Damage to RPE cells occurs at the onset of AMD.
However, how an unhealthy diet could contribute to eye disease has been poorly understood.
In a recent study from the University of Southampton, researchers found that eating a diet high in unhealthy fats and cholesterols may cause vision loss in later life.
They also found that a potential treatment may save eye cells before AMD develops.
The study is published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. The lead author is Dr. Arjuna Ratnayaka, Lecturer in Vision Sciences at the University.
In the study, the team examined how disease-causing pathways triggered by poor nutrition could harm RPE cells.
They found a high-fat diet can disrupt a process in RPE cells that helps cope with changing conditions in the aging eye.
This can cause long-term damage and eventual vision loss.
They also found clues that damaged cells might be rescued to prevent this from happening.
In the future, the team will examine whether this type of damage can be reversed through better nutrition and how damaged RPE cells could possibly be rescued.
They hope the findings could help develop new therapies for some AMD patients.
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