Chinese wolfberries could improve vision defects caused by diabetes

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Washington, Mar 31 (ANI): A boffin at Kansas State University is delving deeper into the use of Chinese wolfberries for improving vision deficiencies characteristic of type-2 diabetese.

Dingbo "Daniel" Lin is studying wolfberries and their potential to improve damage to the retina.

His findings show that the fruit can lower the oxidative stress that the eye undergoes as a result of type-2 diabetes.

"I would not say that wolfberries are a medicine, but they can be used as a dietary supplement to traditional treatments to improve vision. Wolfberries have high antioxidant activity and are very beneficial to protect against oxidative stress caused by environmental stimuli and genetic mutations," said Lin.

While having a conversation about the eye and phytochemicals with his father, a traditional medical doctor in China, Lin decided to explore the use of wolfberries for vision improvement.

"In our culture's history, we have traditional medicine literature that describes things like the wolfberry and its functions," said Lin.

Wolfberries are bright orange-red, oblong-shaped and grown in China.

While the fruit is known to help rebalance homeostasis, boost the immune system, nourish the liver and kidneys and improve vision, Lin wanted understand its effects on vision.

The researchers have found that wolfberries have high levels of zeaxanthin, lutein, polysaccharides and polyphenolics, which have been shown to improve vision, including the prevention of age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

The researchers are using dried wolfberries and examining their effects on the retina pigment epithelial cell layer.

"It's the only cell layer in the far back of the retina, and it provides a fundamental support to the whole retina, just like the base of a building. All of the nutrients pass through that cell layer," said Lin.

By using type-2 diabetic mice, the researchers are studying the effects of wolfberries on oxidative stress, one of the factors that occur in diabetic retinopathy, which is a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness in American adults.

"Oxidative stress is known as cell impairment of the production of reactive oxygen. Cellular oxidative stress is involved in many human diseases, such as diabetes, vision impairment and blindness," said Lin.

The in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that the wolfberry's phytochemicals protect the retinal pigment epithelial cells from hyperglycemia, or high glucose.

The findings show that the fruit has local effects on oxidative stress, reactivates the enzyme AMPK and reduces endoplasmic reticulum stress.

The research has been presented at the 2009 Experimental Biology conference and 2009 American Society of Cell Biology Conference. (ANI)

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