A new study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research suggests that an unhealthy dietary pattern comprising high fat and cholesterol content may play a role in the development of eye diseases resulting in vision loss.
Researchers at the University of Southampton investigated the damaging effects of poor nutrition on the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells and whether the cells could be rescued from damage before the development of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration.
The study determined how RPE cells were responsible for breaking down by-products of daily activities of photoreceptors and eliminating them through lysosomes. It was found that healthy RPE cells were flexible enough to adapt to the changing conditions of the ageing eye, but intake of a fat-rich diet could impair the breakdown process in RPE cells. This results in failure of the RPE cells in supporting the photoreceptors, causing their death and consequent permanent vision loss. It was also found that some lysosomes were spared from damage in stressed RPE cells, suggesting the possibility of salvaging damaged cells and preventing vision loss.
Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, the lead author, said: "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."