We examined the profiling of gene expression of metallothioneins (MTs) in human tissues from cadaver eyes with microarray- based analysis.

In the framework of the collaboration of the Eye Research Foundation (Fundación de Investigación Oftalmológica – FIO) with Universidad de Oviedo, the research teams headed by Professors Miguel Coca-Prados (Senior lecturer Rafael del Pino in Ophthalmology at Fundación de Investigación Oftalmológica) and Alfredo Sanz-Medel (Chairman and Senior lecturer in the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the aforementioned university) have carried out a study that has recently been published in the scientific journal “Journal Biological Chemistry” (See attached publication). The paper describes the effect of zinc in human eye cells and the process by which this elements is able to stimulate the expression of a specific group of genes that codify the proteins known as Metallothioneins. This process becomes possible when zinc is present in high quantities.

In normal proportions, this metal is involved in many regular chemical and physiological reactions, but in high concentrations it has cytotoxic effects and may cause cell death. On top of this, zinc is also associated with the development of certain pathologies such as type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Alzheimer, Cancer and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

In this line, clinical studies have shown that the oral administration of zinc and antioxidant vitamin supplements (vitamin C and E and beta-carotene) to patients suffering from AMD significantly reduces the progression of the neurovascular form (wet) of AMD in intermediate or advanced phase.

Therefore, a conclusion of this recently published study suggests that the increase in the synthesis of zinc binding-proteins – metallothioneins – can confer eye cells a higher protection against oxidative stress or inflammatory processes, considered as risk factors in the development of the eye diseases that we have just mentioned.

The authors of the paper are Drs Lydia Alvarez, Hector Gonzalez-Iglesias and Montse Garcia, all of them from the Fundación de Investigación Oftalmológica.

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