Molecular medicine in ophthalmic care

Stuart Richer, O.D., Ph.D., William Stiles, M.D., Carla Thomas


Lipofuscin is the most consistent and phylogenically constant morphologic marker of cellular aging. Autofluorescence of the A2E fluorophore within retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) lipofuscin affords the opportunity for noninvasive evaluation of age- and disease-related pathophysiological changes in the human retina. It is being used in National Eye Institute/Age-Related Eye Disease Study II to evaluate age-related macular degeneration (AMD) geographic atrophy expansion. Experiments show lipofuscin can be reversed in cell culture and animal models in heart, brain, spinal cord, and retinal tissues, using an array of antioxidants and iron chelators.


An 80-year-old man with a gastric resection presented with complaints of unremitting night driving difficulty despite treatment with lutein and omega III fatty acids. Notable parafoveal deposition of retinal lipofuscin by 50° fundus auto-fluorescence (580 nm excitation/660 barrier filters) and concurrent abnormalities in non-Snellen measures of visual function–Contrast Sensitivity Function, 6.5° large field tritan threshold, 10° threshold visual fields, and deficits in the National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire (VFQ) 25 subjective night driving/mental health subscale questionnaire were obtained. The patient was placed on an over-the-counter daily oral polyphenolic mixture containing resveratrol and re-evaluated 5 months later.


The data reveal improvements in all measures of visual function, subjective improvement in vision and mental functioning on the VFQ 25, and visible clearing of RPE lipofuscin.


To our knowledge, we believe this to be the first reported human clinical case of lipofuscin reversal in the human eye correlated with measured clinical and subjective improvement in visual and mental function after nutraceutical intervention.

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