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Open Access Research

Beneficial effects of the nutritional supplements on the development of diabetic retinopathy

Renu A Kowluru1*, Qing Zhong1, Julia M Santos1, Mangayarkarasi Thandampallayam1, Doug Putt1 and Dennis L Gierhart2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ophthalmology, Kresge Eye Institute, Detroit, MI, USA

2 Zeavision, L.L.C., Chesterfield, MO, USA

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2014, 11:8  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-11-8

Published: 30 January 2014

Abstract

Purpose

Increased oxidative stress and inflammatory mediators are implicated in the development of diabetic retinopathy, and in rats, its development can be prevented by antioxidants. Carotenoids are some of the powerful antioxidants, and diabetes decreases lutein and zeaxanthin levels in the serum and retina. The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of carotenoid containing nutritional supplements (Nutr), which is in clinical trials for ‘Diabetes Vision Function’, on diabetic retinopathy.

Methods

Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats (Wistar, male) were fed Purina 5001 supplemented with nutritional supplements containing zeaxanthin, lutein, lipoic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, or without any supplementation. Retinal function was analyzed at ~4 months of diabetes by electroretinography. After 11 months of diabetes, capillary cell apoptosis (TUNEL-staining) and histopathology (degenerative capillaries) were quantified in trypsin-digested retinal vasculature. Retina was also analyzed for mitochondrial damage (by quantifying gene expressions of mtDNA-encoded proteins of the electron transport chain), VEGF and inflammatory mediators, interleukin-1β and NF-kB.

Results

Diabetes impaired retinal function decreasing the amplitudes of both a- and b-waves. In the same animals, retinal capillary cell apoptosis and degenerative capillaries were increased by 3–4 fold. Gene expressions of mtDNA encoded proteins were decreased, and VEGF, interleukin-1β and NF-kB levels were elevated. Supplementation with the nutrients prevented increased capillary cell apoptosis and vascular pathology, and ameliorated these diabetes-induced retinal abnormalities.

Conclusions

Nutritional supplementation prevents diabetic retinopathy, and also maintains normal retinal function, mitochondrial homeostasis and inflammatory mediators. Thus, this supplementation could represent an achievable and inexpensive adjunct therapy to also inhibit retinopathy, a slow progressing disease feared most by diabetic patients.

Keywords:
Carotenoids; Diabetic retinopathy; Macular pigment; Mitochondria; Nutritional supplements; Zeaxanthin