The study suggests that incubating retinal cells with vegetable oils induces biochemical and biophysical changes in the cell membrane, which may have a beneficial effect in preventing or slowing the development of retinopathy.
Prof. A. Khalil, professor at the Universite de Sherbrooke and principal investigator of the study, said that the membrane fluidity, which refers to the viscosity of the lipid bi-layer of a cell membrane, is a marker of the cell function.
He said that a decrease of membrane fluidity can affect the rotation and diffusion of proteins and other bio-molecules within the membrane, thereby affecting the functions of these molecules whereas, an increase in membrane fluidity makes for a more flexible membrane and facilitates the transmission of light through the eye.
The researchers discovered that vegetable oil fatty acids incorporate in retina cells and increase the plasma membrane fluidity.
They concluded that a diet low in trans-unsaturated fats and rich in omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil may reduce the risk of retinopathy.
In addition, the research suggests that replacing the neutral oil used in eye drops with oil that possesses valuable biological properties for the eye could also contribute to the prevention of retina diseases.
The study has been published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.