Hyaluronic Acid may Prevent Retinal Degeneration

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by Nils Osmar. August 5, 2022 – Medical Disclaimer

This study highlights several interesting things:

  1. Hyaluronic acid protects the rods in our eyes from degeneration, at least in vitro. (Rods are responsible for detecting changes in light and dark)
  2. It does so by activating the mTOR pathway.
  3. The anti-aging community tends to gravitate toward interventions that suppress mTOR and activate AMPK.
  4. It’s important (in my opinion) to keep AMPK activated most of the time. But this article is another reminder that some mTOR activation is essential, both for immune health, and, according to this study, for eye health.
  5. Hyaluronic acid is also associated with the production of tears. Without it our eyes can go dry. (Some people taking HA supplements have reported an improvement in dry eye symptoms).

From the study:

“We conclude that the HA component of the HA-based hydrogels mediates photoreceptor survival through activating the mTOR pathway. The upstream mediators are canonical Wnt signaling and the RhoA/ROCK pathway.

Our hydrogel represents a promising substrate for in vitro culture of stem cell-derived photoreceptors to study their development or perform screening assays.

The pathways we identified may constitute compelling targets for investigation in animal models of retinal degeneration.”

More about HA and dry eyes

From another study:

Amongst the agents used for medical therapy, hyaluronic acid (HA) has been shown most efficient in DED treatment. However, therapeutic efficiency varies according to concentration and molecular weight of HA used. 

In this aspect our most recent experimental study on high molecular weight HA is of major importance as it clearly shows that the molecular weight does have a decisive role for the effects achieved, favoring the use of 0.15 per cent high molecular weight HA. These results were supported by clinical data based on a five year multinational study. Additionally we could show, for the first time, the enhancement of nerve regeneration in severe DED due to treatment with high molecular weight HA, says Gysbert van Setten.

The five year clinical study, which was both prospective, double blind and randomised, included 84 patients. Half of the patients received HA 0.15 per cent and the other half, in the control group, received their usual eye drops for eight weeks. The results showed a significant improvement in symptoms in those who received HA 0.15 per cent.

Other benefits

Hyaluronic acid has been found to support muscle growth. Some bodybuilders actually inject it for this reason. (I don’t, and I don’t recommend doing so.)

What I’m doing

I’ve been taking two or three capsules (200 to 600 mg) of high molecular weight hyaluronic acid for the past few months. Because it absorbs 1,000 times its weight in water and forms a gel of HA in our dermal layer (replenishing the layer of HA which is much larger when we’re young), a little goes a long ways. Because of its benefits in terms of muscle growth, I take 2 t0 4 capsules of high molecular weight HA right after my morning workouts.

There are many good brands. The HA I’m currently taking is the high molecular weight product from DoNotAge. I switched to taking it because it was reportedly developed in consultation with Dr. Vera Gorbunova, who has done substantial research on HA and longevity.

After taking it for a few weeks, I noticed an improvement in my skin elasticity. I’m also taking it for brain health and because of evidence that it prevents brain shrinkage as we age.

If I had a diagnosis of cancer, I would discontinue taking it.

More information:

Cautions and caveats

People with actively growing cancers should read up on possible problems related to hyaluronic acid. (It’s important to be aware of the possible side effects of all nutritional supplements.) If you have a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, do not take it; it can speed up the growth of this type of cancer. More information

This isn’t because HA “causes” cancer; I have not seen any studies indicating that it causes normal cells to turn cancerous. (It’s not considered a carcinogen as far as I’m aware.) However, there is evidence that some types of cancer have found ways to utilize the HA later in our dermis to spread to other parts of the body. See study.

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