December 11, 2023

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans over the age of 60, affecting nearly 20 million people. In AMD, vision deteriorates in the central visual area, which means everyday tasks such as driving, reading and seeing faces become increasingly difficult.

Despite research into ways to slow its progression, and medical interventions such as retinal and bionic eye transplants, minimally invasive treatments and gene therapy, there is no known way to restore vision once lost.

Scientists have also been exploring The Link Between Nutrition and AMDand Macular Degeneration Specialist A diet rich in antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, omega-3s, zinc, selenium, and vitamins E and C is recommended for eye health.

Now, a team of researchers has stumbled upon an unexpected, left-leaning link between nutrition and vision loss that mirrors AMD progression — in the sharp eyes of jumping spiders.

University of Cincinnati (UC) biologists have found that if underfed, bold jumping spiders (daring phidips) lost the light-sensitive photoreceptor, the part of the eye that processes visual cues in the central area of ​​vision. Jumping spiders are known for their excellent visual hunting and the accuracy of their signature jumping abilities.

“You can tell some photoreceptors are dead by looking at them,” said UC professor Elke Buschbeck. “It’s functionally equivalent to the macula in our eyes.”

Photoreceptors are critical for responding to light and initiating signaling pathways to the brain for information processing. They’re also energy intensive, which keeps the link between the correct fuel, which can spur AMD if it’s lacking.

“Photoreceptors are very expensive energetically,” Buschbeck said. “It’s hard to keep up with their energy needs. If you deprive them of nutrients, the system fails.

“Interestingly, there is also evidence for macular degeneration in humans to be associated with difficulties with metabolic processes and energy transfer,” she added.

Prof. Elke Buschbeck invents a custom ophthalmoscope to study vision in spiders and insects
Prof. Elke Buschbeck invents a custom ophthalmoscope to study vision in spiders and insects

The researchers tested their theory on two groups of spiders, one that was well-fed and one that was only half-fed. Using a custom-built micro-ophthalmoscope to take pictures of the spider’s retina, the scientists found more prevalent black spots in the eyes of the hungry insects, especially in the most densely populated areas of the retina.

Damaged photoreceptors, which look like black pixels on a screen and appear to malfunction due to loss of energy, are thought to be an avenue of research that could lead to a stronger link between nutrition and high-energy-demanding cell types. Energy input to maintain function.

Image of jumping spider retina shows damaged photoreceptors like dead pixels in a digital camera
Image of jumping spider retina shows damaged photoreceptors like dead pixels in a digital camera

Buschback Lab/University of California

While scientists are quick to warn that it’s too early to directly compare vision loss in spiders and humans, it could provide a new avenue for studying the debilitating condition, which is currently incurable.

Annette Stowasser, study senior author, said: “To be able to show how this might inform treatment in people, well-designed studies first need to tease out which exact nutrients are involved, which may depend on the environment. Conditions and other factors.” Assistant Professor, University of California. “Nutrient deficiencies, however, had clear effects, suggesting the importance of paying close attention to nutritional impacts.”

“Wouldn’t it be crazy if a breakthrough in the treatment of macular degeneration in humans was inspired by work on jumping spiders that are common in America’s backyards?” said UC Associate Professor Nathan Morehouse. “Sometimes answers to challenging questions can come from unexpected places.”

The study was published in the journal visual research.

source: University of Cincinnati