Retinal dystrophy: development retarded by galactose feeding in spontaneously hypertensive rats

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Science  24 Jan 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4736, pp. 376-378
DOI: 10.1126/science.3941900


Retinal photoreceptor cell dystrophies have been widely observed in humans and in animals, but pathogenetic mechanisms are known in only a few such disorders, and successful therapeutic intervention has been reported in fewer still. Spontaneously hypertensive albino rats develop a retinal photoreceptor cell dystrophy with onset late in the first year or early in the second year of life. Between 60 and 70 percent of the animals are affected. A substantial reduction in the prevalence and severity of the dystrophy occurred in such animals whose diet contained 30 percent (by weight) D-galactose. Neither an inhibitor of the enzyme aldose reductase, present in the diet, nor diabetes mellitus, induced by streptozotocin, had any statistically significant influence on the dystrophy. Ambient light and systolic blood pressure levels also did not seem to influence the course of the disorder. The mechanism by which galactose exerts its effect is unknown, but a mutant enzyme with an elevated Michaelis constant (Km) for galactose is plausible.