Surgery News

Zinc and macular degeneration link

September 02, 2015

In studying eye tissue samples, the researches found that deposits, that are hallmarks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), contain large amounts of zinc.

This finding, published in the journal Experimental Eye Research, might be particularly important because zinc supplements are widely given to patients to help boost weak immune systems. In addition, a 2001 study from the National Eye Institute found that high doses of zinc supplements, combined with antioxidants, may postpone the progression to blindness.

AMD is a medical condition in which the macula, the place of central vision in the eye, experiences atrophy and in some cases bleeding. It is the primary cause of blindness in the elderly in Western society and approximately 13 million Americans suffer from the disease according to AMD Alliance International.

???Because earlier findings have shown that that zinc contributes to deposit formation in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, we were prompted to test the theory that zinc might be involved in deposit formation in AMD,??? said Mason professor of psychology, Jane Flinn.

???The double-edged sword is that zinc has been found to enhance the immune system, but also could play a role in the advancement of macular degeneration,??? said Imre Lengyel of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology in London, who led the collaborative study.

???We now know that we need to take a closer look at the role zinc plays in the development of AMD,??? said Mason graduate psychology student Katherine Cano. ???We believe this finding will help us unlock other answers to the mystery of treating this disease.???

The team hopes their findings can be useful in the development of new treatments as well as a more informed approach to zinc intake recommendations.

The study was supported by the Moorfields Eye Hospital Special Trustees and Mercer Fund, a U.S. Department of Energy grant and a Wilkins AMD fund grant.

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Parkinsonism includes any condition that causes the symptoms of Parkinson's disease which is one of the most common age-related neurological disorders.

Symptoms include tremor, stiffness of the arms, legs or trunk of the body, loss of facial expression, loss of control over movement, paralysis and impaired mental processes (cognitive dysfunction).

The researchers say as with cognitive impairment and dementia, the effect of surgery was age-dependent and the risk increased when the surgery was carried out at a younger age.

Rocca and his associates conclude that the neuroprotective effect of estrogen may be general and may involve multiple mechanisms and multiple types of brain cells.

The researchers say the studies are among the first to support the hypothesis of a critical age window for the protective effect of estrogen on the brain in humans.

In the past premenopausal women who were no longer concerned about preserving their fertility, had their ovaries removed when a hysterectomy was performed to remove the uterus.

Rocca says emerging evidence however suggests that adequate estrogen prior to menopause protects against heart disease, osteoporosis, and now also dementia later in life.

The studies are published in the current edition of Neurology.