The high-priced golden culinary herb saffron may hold one of the keys to preventing the loss of sight in old age,and even help to improve vision in people suffering from certain blinding eye diseases,a new study says.
An international team has found that saffron slows the loss of sight in old age as the herb has remarkable effects on the genes which actually regulate the performance of the eye’s key vision cells.
According to researchers,the herb from crocus flowers not only protects the vision cells from damage,but also slows and possibly reverses the course of blinding diseases,such as age-related muscular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
Lead researcher Prof Silvia Bisti of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science said: “Saffron is not simply an anti-oxidant. It seems to possess a number of other properties which are protective to vision.
“For example it appears to affect genes which regulate the fatty acid content of the cell membrane and this makes the vision cells tougher and more resilient. And,the point about saffron is that it is completely safe and harmless. It’s been used in cooking and medicine for three thousand years.”
After a successful experiment on mice,a trial with patients suffering AMD in Rome has found early indications that treatment with a dietary supplement of saffron may cause damaged eye cells to recover,according to the researchers.
“We are excited by these early findings. We will know more when all the results are in later this year,” Prof Bisti said,who carried out his work at his laboratory at L’Aquila University in Italy.