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Open AccessArticle

Saffron: A Multitask Neuroprotective Agent for Retinal Degenerative Diseases

Department of Applied Clinical Science and Biotechnology, University of L’Aquila, Via Vetoio, Coppito II, 67100 L’Aquila, Italy
Istituto Nazionale di Biostrutture e Biosistemi (INBB), Via Medaglie d’Oro 305, 00136 Roma, Italy
Facolta’ di Medicina e Chirurgia, Fondazione Policlinico A. Gemelli, Universita’ Cattolica del S. Cuore, 00136 Roma, Italy
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Antioxidants 2019, 8(7), 224;
Received: 9 April 2019 / Revised: 10 July 2019 / Accepted: 11 July 2019 / Published: 17 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Antioxidants and Retinal Disease)
PDF [2470 KB, uploaded 17 July 2019]


Both age related macular degeneration (AMD) and light induced retinal damage share the common major role played by oxidative stress in the induction/progression of degenerative events. Light damaged (LD) rats have been widely used as a convenient model to gain insight into the mechanisms of degenerative disease, to enucleate relevant steps and to test neuroprotectants. Among them, saffron has been shown to ameliorate degenerative processes and to regulate many genes and protective pathways. Saffron has been also tested in AMD patients. We extended our analysis to a possible additional effect regulated by saffron and compared in AMD patients a pure antioxidant treatment (Lutein/zeaxanthin) with saffron treatment. Methods: Animal model. Sprague-Dawley (SD) adult rats, raised at 5 lux, were exposed to 1000 lux for 24 h and then either immediately sacrificed or placed back at 5 lux for 7 days recovery period. A group of animals was treated with saffron. We performed in the animal model: (1) SDS-PAGE analysis; (2) Western Blotting (3) Enzyme activity assay (4) Immunolabelling; in AMD patients: a longitudinal open-label study 29 (±5) months in two groups of patients: lutein/zeaxanthin (19) and saffron (23) treated. Visual function was tested every 8 months by ERG recordings in addition to clinical examination. Results: Enzymatic activity of MMP-3 is reduced in LD saffron treated retinas and is comparable to control as it is MMP-3 expression. LD treated retinas do not present “rosettes” and microglia activation and migration is highly reduced. Visual function remains stable in saffron treated AMD patients while deteriorates in the lutein/zeaxanthin group. Conclusion: Our results provide evidence of an additional way of action of saffron treatment confirming the complex nature of neuroprotective activities of its chemical components. Accordingly, long term follow-up in AMD patients reveals an added value of saffron supplementation treatment compared to classical antioxidant protocol. View Full-Text
Keywords: oxidative stress; age related macular degeneration; light induced damage; matrix metalloproteinases; saffron oxidative stress; age related macular degeneration; light induced damage; matrix metalloproteinases; saffron

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Di Marco, S.; Carnicelli, V.; Franceschini, N.; Di Paolo, M.; Piccardi, M.; Bisti, S.; Falsini, B. Saffron: A Multitask Neuroprotective Agent for Retinal Degenerative Diseases. Antioxidants 2019, 8, 224.

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