Researchers recently found that astaxanthin, a carotene found in seafood that can inhibit inflammation associated with numerous diseases, may alleviate pro-inflammatory stress to the ocular surface epithelium in dry eye disease (DED), thus improving signs and symptoms.

The study aimed to characterize the protective effect and potential mechanism of astaxanthin on DED in vitro and in vivo. Mice models and human corneal epithelial cell cultures were exposed to hyperosmotic saline solution in vitro and in vivo, respectively. A team pretreated experimental subjects with astaxanthin and assessed the effect of the compound. They further investigated the possible mechanism of astaxanthin on DED by pretreating subjects with an anti-cancer drug (a phosphoinositide 3-kinase inhibitor known as LY294002).

The investigators discovered that the addition of astaxanthin significantly reduced the expression of a protein secreted in inflammatory responses (HMGB1) and significantly inhibited the increase of inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-1β in a dose-dependent manner; presence of astaxanthin also promoted the expression of a protein important in cell survival (phospho-Akt). Mice in the DED group pretreated with astaxanthin showed significantly decreased corneal fluorescein staining scores. The authors noted that pretreatment with the anti-cancer drug could eliminate the positive effects of astaxanthin in decreasing HMGB1 levels.

Li H, Li J, Hou C, et al. The effect of astaxanthin on inflammation in hyperosmolarity of experimental dry eye model in vitro and in vivo. Exp Eye Resear. June 10, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].