Resveratrol — a natural compound found in red wine, grapes, blueberries, peanuts and other plants — has been found to promote longevity and health in a variety of ways. For example, scientists have found evidence it prevents heart disease, helps keep weight under control, normalizes cholesterol levels and may prevent diabetes (http://www.naturalnews.com/027420_r…). Now there’s another benefit to add to this remarkable list of benefits: it could prevent some of the top causes of blindness.
Vision researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have documented that resveratrol stops out-of-control blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in the eye. This discovery means resveratrol could preserve vision in three major blinding eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 50); diabetic retinopathy, which causes vision loss in about 20 percent of people with diabetes; and retinopathy of prematurity which occurs when premature babies experience an obstruction of blood flow into the retina — a condition that blinds 50,000 infants each year.
“A great deal of research has identified resveratrol as an anti-aging compound, and given our interest in age-related eye disease, we wanted to find out whether there was a link,” Washington University retina specialist Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD, the study’s senior investigator, said in a statement to the media. “There were reports on resveratrol’s effects on blood vessels in other parts of the body, but there was no evidence that it had any effects within the eye.”
So Dr. Apte’s research team decided to test resveratrol on mice that develop abnormal blood vessels in the retina after laser treatment. Their findings, published in the July issue of the American Journal of Pathology, showed that when the rodents were given resveratrol, the phytochemical prevented the growth of abnormal blood vessels. In fact, abnormal blood vessels that already existed actually began to disappear.
When the scientists examined cells of the animals’ blood vessels in the lab, they found a new pathway — known as a eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF2) regulated pathway — that is behind resveratrol’s eye-protective power.
“We have identified a novel pathway that could become a new target for therapies. And we believe the pathway may be involved both in age-related eye disease and in other diseases where angiogenesis plays a destructive role,” Dr. Apte stated. “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.”
What’s more, the resveratrol-mediated pathway Dr. Apte’s laboratory has identified may be active not only in several blindness-causing eye diseases, but in cancers and atherosclerosis, as well. That means it might be possible to use resveratrol to not only protect and improve eyesight but to prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of malignancies, too, according to Dr. Apte.