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B1 may treat common cause of blindness

health-and-fitness Updated: Apr 24, 2009 21:44 IST

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A form of vitamin B1 could become a new and effective treatment for one of the world's leading causes of blindness, according to a discovery.

Scientists believe that uveitis, an inflammation of the tissue located just below the outer surface of the eyeball, produces 10 to 15 per cent of all cases of blindness in the US, and causes even higher rates of blindness globally. The inflammation is normally treated with antibiotics or steroid eye drops.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) described some striking results which they achieved with benfotiamene, a fat-soluble form of vitamin B1.

In their experiments, they first injected lab mice with bacterial toxins that ordinarily produce a reaction mimicking uveitis. When those rats are fed benfotiamene, they fail to develop any signs of the inflammatory disorder.

"Benfotiamene strongly suppresses this eye-damaging condition and the biochemical markers we associate with it," said a UTMB study author.

"We're optimistic that this simple supplementation with vitamin B1 has great potential as a new therapy for this widespread eye disease," he added.

Benfotiamene's low cost, rapid absorption by the body and lack of negative side effects make it an ideal candidate for uveitis prevention, the study said.

The paper is slated to appear in the May issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.