Glycobiology continues to advance on many fronts. I had occasion to look into the latest published research on an eye disease called Macular Degeneration (AMD) on behalf of a wonderful health care practitioner in the Netherlands (Claudia) who is one of our talented Licensed Certified Facilitators (LCFs) in the GRM.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined! Allopathic medicine considers AMD an incurable disease. Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The center portion of the retina is called the macula. It is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail. Imagine looking at an object and the center of it is blurred.

There are two basic types of Macular Degeneration: “dry” and “wet.” Approximately 85% of the cases of Macular Degeneration are the “dry” (atrophic) type, while 15% are the “wet” (exudative) type.

There are three stages of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

  • Early AMD – Most people do not experience vision loss in the early stage of AMD. This is why regular eye exams are important, particularly if you have more than one risk factor (smoker, Caucasian, prevalent in family history). Early AMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized drusen or yellow deposits beneath the retina.
  • Intermediate AMD – There may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms. A comprehensive eye exam with specific tests will look for larger drusen and/or pigment changes in the retina.
  • Late AMD – Vision loss is noticeable.

An NIH study documents a particular tri-antennary (three branches) oligosaccharide called an NA3 glycan. The glycan is made up of specific sugars that surround every cell in the human body. This glycan supports “proper folding of outer segment membranes, promotes normal ultrastructure, and maintains protein expression patterns of photoreceptors and Müller cells in the absence of retinal pigment epithelium support.  It is a potential new therapeutic for atrophic age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other retinal degenerative disorders.” This means it supports eye repair and healing in AMD.  Click here for the link to the 2014 NIH study documenting this finding (for those of you brave enought to peruse scientific studies).

If you look at a picture of the NA3 glycan and you look at the sugars on this three-branched antenna structure, you will see galactose, n-acetyl glucosamine and mannose predominantly displayed. The sugars that constitute NA3 are shown in this technical link.

The links demonstrate how difficult it is for the public to make the connections to nutritional glycobiology. According to the National Academy of Science publication, Transforming Glycoscience: A Roadmap For the Future, published in October 2012, there is no question that glycans play a role in every autoimmune or degenerative disease affecting humans. The science keeps marching on and the applications are being demonstrated disease by disease as money and attention are focused on them. We don’t have to know all the technical  details if we understand the basic principles. Our bodies understand how to operate without us having to tell it the details. You swallow the raw materials necessary for the immune system to operate, for the cells to build the structures properly, and the body will function properly. It is designed to run beautifully.

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