Unhealthy diet shown to affect sight later in life

The study also exposed a potential new treatment technique for eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by recovering these cells.“Although the effects of poor nutrition in eye health have been studied in large populations, how this actually brings about disease-causing changes in retinal cells is less well understood,” study lead Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, a lecturer in Vision Sciences at the University of Southampton’s School of Medicine, said.The research looked into how disease-causing pathways resulting from poor nutrition could impact RPE cells. In particular, researchers determined how RPE cells process the by-products generated by the daily activities of photoreceptors through the cells’ waste disposal syst, which terminates in small vesicles known as lysosomes.Dr Ratnayaka found that healthy RPE cells had a considerable degree of flexibility to cope with changing conditions in the aging eye, whereas a high-fat diet can disrupt this breakdown process in RPE cells and cause long term damage, leading to vision loss.“We also found that some lysosomes appeared to rain undamaged even in such stressed RPE, suggesting an altogether new way in which damaged cells could be rescued to prevent eventual sight-loss,” Dr Ratnayaka said.“As our results showed how the waste disposal syst of the RPE becomes damaged by unhealthy diet-driven disease pathways, our next step is to find out whether this type of damage can be reversed through better nutrition and if stressed or damaged RPE cells can possibly be rescued. Potential new therapies developed along these lines could offer new treatments for some AMD patients.” The study was funded by the Macular Society and the findings were published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.