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Biol Chem. 2002 Mar-Apr;383(3-4):537-45.

A2E and blue light in the retina: the paradigm of age-related macular degeneration.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich.


The photoreceptors in the retina, designed to initiate the cascade of events which link the incoming light to the sensation of 'vision', are susceptible to damage by light, particularly blue light. The damage can lead to cell death and diseases. The turnover of retinal, an essential element of the visual process, is the basis of the events that lead to damage. Free retinal, absorbing in the blue region of the visible spectrum, is phototoxic, and is a precursor of the (photo)toxic compound A2E, which specifically targets cytochrome oxidase and thereby induces cell death by apoptosis. Cell death induced by A2E in the dark is prevented by negatively charged phospholipids. The blue light-filtering molecules lutein and zeaxanthin are tailor-made substances protecting the retina. In vitro, they protect cytochrome oxidase against the permanent damage caused by A2E in combination with light. These novel findings should enable us to prevent or cure the dry form of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe visual impairment in humans living in developed countries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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