Discovery may help prevent vision loss with age

(Edmonton) An omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, known as DHA, prevented age-related vision loss in lab tests, according to recent medical research from the University of Alberta.

Yves Sauvé, a researcher in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, and his team discovered that lab models fed DHA did not accumulate a toxic molecule at the back of the eyes. The toxin normally builds up in the retina with age and causes vision loss.

“This discovery could result in a very broad therapeutic use,” says Sauvé, whose work was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

“In normal aging, this toxin increases twofold as we age. But in lab tests, there was no increase in this toxin whatsoever. This has never been demonstrated before—that supplementing the diet with DHA could make this kind of difference.”

The team recently started another study, looking at people who have age-related macular degeneration, a condition that results in loss of central vision and is the main cause of blindness in people over the age of 50. The researchers will look for DNA markers in the blood of study participants. The team wants to determine whether participants with certain genetic markers will respond better to increasing amounts of DHA in their diet, and if so, why.

Sauvé is a researcher in the departments of ophthalmology and physiology at the U of A.

Various organizations funded the research; the primary funder was the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.