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Am J Neurodegener Dis. 2013 Sep 18;2(3):208-20. eCollection 2013.

The time course of action of two neuroprotectants, dietary saffron and photobiomodulation, assessed in the rat retina.

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Department of Biotechnology and Applied Clinical Science, University of L'Aquila Italy.



Dietary saffron and photobiomodulation (low-level infrared radiation, PBM) are emerging as therapeutically promising protectants for neurodegenerative conditions, such as the retinal dystrophies. In animal models, saffron and PBM, given in limited daily doses, protect retina and brain from toxin- or light-induced stress. This study addresses the rate at which saffron and PBM, given in daily doses, induce neuroprotection, using a light damage model of photoreceptor degeneration in Sprague Dawley (SD) rats.


Rats were raised in dim cyclic (12 h 5 lux, 12 h dark) illumination, treated with saffron or PBM for 2-10 d, and then exposed to bright damaging light (1,000 lux for 24 h). After 1 week survival, the retina was assessed for photoreceptor death (using the TUNEL reaction), for surviving photoreceptor damage (thickness of the outer nuclear layer) and for the expression of a stress-related protein GFAP, using immunohistochemistry. Preconditioning the retina with saffron or PBM reduced photoreceptor death, preserved the population of surviving photoreceptors and reduced the upregulation of GFAP in Müller cells. At the daily dose of saffron used (1 mg/kg), protection was detectable at 2 d, increasing to 10 d. At the daily dose of PBM used (5 J/cm(2) at 670 nm) protection was detectable at 5 d, increasing to 7-10 d.


The results provide time parameters for exploration of the mechanisms and durability of the protection provided by saffron and PBM.


Saffron; light damage; neuroprotection; photobiomodulation; retinal degeneration


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