If the clumping of vitamin A in the eye can be slowed down, it may result in the prevention of loss of vision, generally caused by macular degeneration, say researchers from Columbia University Medical Center.
Dr. Washington and his lab have taken a novel step toward treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a top cause of untreatable blindness - and Stargardt's disease by changing the structure of vitamin A.
Vitamin A often reacts with another molecule of vitamin A to form clumpy deposits, or what are known as 'vitamin A dimers'. These dimmers are mainly responsible for the macular degeneration.
"Researchers have tried a different approach to preventing the formation of vitamin A dimers by modifying the processing of vitamin A by the eye, but these modifications seem to have inhibited vision and caused side effects," Dr. Washington said.
In animal model studies, Dr. Washington's lab has synthesized a modified vitamin A drug.
When given to mice with the same genetic defect as humans with early vision loss, the modified vitamin A resulted in fewer vitamin A dimers, that prompted improved vision. The researchers concluded that this could be used as a therapy to human-blindness.
This work is detailed in a series of articles published recently in the 'Journal of Biological Chemistry'.