February 2, 2021
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Scientists at the University of Utah have invented a method for synthesizing large enough quantities of very-long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFAs) to evaluate their potential sight-preserving properties. The method and the results of the first study to use it were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) this week.

The study determined that VLC-PUFA supplementation increased levels of the lipids in the retina and also improved visual function in normal mice and in mice with a defect in the ELOVL4 enzyme, which is involved in the body's production of VLC-PUFAs. 

“Synthesizing VLC-PUFAs opens up a whole new area of study, and these first results are very promising,” said the John A. Moran Eye Center’s Paul S. Bernstein, MD, Ph.D., the paper’s corresponding author. “Our results raise interesting questions about how orally administered VLC-PUFAs improve vision, how they are carried in the bloodstream, and how they are selectively targeted to the retina. The VLC-PUFA formulation, dosage, and timing of the intervention first need to be optimized, and then the underlying mechanisms will need to be defined.”