New research from Israel found orange algae pulled from Sinai lake can be beneficial for those who have retinitis pigmentosa.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a hereditary disease and is one of the most common forms of inherited retinal degeneration. Symptoms often first appear in childhood, but severe vision problems do not usually develop until early adulthood.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is an uncommon condition, affecting about 1 in 4,000 people in the United States.
It leads to a breakdown of photoreceptor cells in the eye’s retina. Over time the person faces a narrowing field of vision or “tunnel vision”, then eventually night blindness. It is considered incurable but currently being treated with daily intake of 15000 IU of vitamin A palmitate in some patients.
During reserve military duty at Lake Bardawil on the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, Professor Ami Ben Amotz discovered the orange algae dunaliella bardawil. He brought some samples back to the lab and found it was highly rich in anti-oxidant 9-cis beta-carotene.
Dr. Ygal Rotenstreich turned the orange algae into a powdered-based pill and gave it to seven people suffering from night blindness and found their vision improved.
“A test known as ERG checks the electrical function of retinal cells that are stimulated by light, and serve as an objective measure of improvement,” Rotenstreich said in a statement.
Recently, the study was done with 30 people. They took the pills over 90 days using an algae pill and a placebo. Researchers found that thirty-four percent of the patients significantly improved their vision with the pill, and in some, there was as much as a quadrupling effect in their field of vision.
Since the algae is fatty, patients did experienced loose stools, but otherwise there were no significant side effects. The findings were published in the May issue of JAMA Ophthalmology, published by the American Medical Association.
“The results of the study are encouraging, because until now there was no known treatment that improved the vision of those suffering from retinitis pigmentosa,” Rotenstreich told Haaretz.
The algae is now being specially grown in Eilat by a Japanese-owned firm in order to increase the content of its active ingredients, Rotenstreich said.