A new therapy for AMD may be on the horizon: a polysaccharide called fucoidan found in marine sources, such as brown seaweed, could help protect the eye against environmental influences.

Due to their bioactivity, fucoidans have recently been suggested as a potential treatment for myriad conditions. Looking into this possibility as it relates to the eye, a team of researchers from Germany reviewed 10 in vitro studies that showed promising results in VEGF inhibition and, to a lesser degree, oxidative stress protection.

Based on the review, the researchers found fucoidans from Saccharina latissima and Laminaria hyperborean, both in the brown algae family, were the best candidates for further investigation.

As shown in the studies, fucoidans exhibited a species dependency in their bioactivity. Additionally, the investigation results indicated high molecular weight was preferable when considering anti-VEGF function. Still, other factors that may be of importance include the degree of sulfation and fucose content of the extract.

“Therefore, fucose-rich, high molecular weight and highly sulfated fucoidans of the species Saccharina latissima and Laminaria hyperborea should be the fucoidans of choice for further development,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

Taken together, fucoidans show exciting potential as a possible new treatment option for counteracting AMD progression, yet further research needs to be conducted in regard to bioactivity, availability, application and in vivo efficacy, the investigators concluded.

D√∂rschmann P, Klettner A. Fucoidans as potential therapeutics for age-related macular degeneration—current evidence from in vitro research. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21:23:9272.