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Synthesising very long-chain fatty acids to treat retinal conditions

A class of lipids – or fatty acids – found in the retina of the eye play an important role in maintaining vision. Victoria Rees, Deputy Editor of Drug Target Review, spoke with Dr Paul Bernstein from the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, US, to discover how very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFAs) could be used as a strategy to protect patients and prevent the progression of eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and some inherited retinal diseases.

Retina

PUFAs are consumed in regular diets and are vital for maintaining the health of membranes throughout the body, as well as signalling for inflammation and other responses. The longest fatty acids usually consumed are between 22 to 24 carbon atoms long.

Comparatively, VLC-PUFAs are 30 to 38 carbons long. “The unique thing about VLC-PUFAs is that, as their name states, they are longer than what we usually consume,” said Bernstein, who was part of a study investigating how VLC-PUFAs can be synthesised and administered to improve vision.1 He explained that as these fatty acids are not typically consumed, they have to be made in tissues from the long-chain fatty acids that are shorter and already present.












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