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August 23, 2011
PORTLAND, ORGABA type receptors in retinal cells require significant amounts of vitamin C to function properly, according to results of new collaborative research from Oregon Health & Science University and University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The research was published in the Journal of Neuroscience (29;31(26):9672-82).
According to the scientists, GABA-type receptors in the brain support communications between brain cells. The study found the GABA-type receptors in retinal cells stopped functioning properly when vitamin C was removed.
"We found that cells in the retina need to be 'bathed' in relatively high doses of vitamin C, inside and out, to function properly," said Henrique von Gersdorff, Ph.D., a senior scientist at OHSU's Vollum Institute and a co-author of the study. "Because the retina is part of the central nervous system, this suggests there's likely an important role for vitamin C throughout our brains, to a degree we had not realized before."
Von Gersdoff further explained vitamin Cs antioxidant properties may preserve receptors and other cells from premature breakdown. He added retinal cells are a type of very accessible brain cells, suggesting other parts of the brain containing GABA-type receptors could be similarly dependent on vitamin C. The role of vitamin C in the brain and central nervous system (CNS) is not fully understood, according to researchers, who noted even when the rest of the body is deprived of the vitamin, it persists in the brain long after. He also suggested the research finding may provide clues into the mechanisms of scurvy, which is caused by vitamin C deficiency. The findings may also yield insights into other diseases such as glaucoma and epilepsy, both which are caused by dysfunctional nerve cells in the retina and brain possibly marked by GABA receptor malfunctioning.
"For example, maybe a vitamin C-rich diet could be neuroprotective for the retina, for people who are especially prone to glaucoma," von Gersdorff said. "This is speculative and there is much to learn. But this research provides some important insights and will lead to the generation of new hypotheses and potential treatment strategies."
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