Meso Zeaxanthin - Macular Degeneration Lipofuscin & The Aging Retina

RETINAL AGING. The component of the retina which is essential for maintaining visual function and photoreceptor survival  is the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE).(1)  The RPE provides the homeostasis of the retina, including phagocytosis, a process by which the shedding of the outer segments of photoreceptors is removed and properly disposed as waste products. It is critical that phagocytosis provide daily removal of the shedded segments to maintain vision.  Phagocytosis denote a highly active lysosomal activity in the RPE of the retina. Aging of retinal results in a degression of lysosomal activity and accumulation of waste material (Lipofuscin). (2) Furthermore, age related photooxidation of the cellular membrane of the retina further damages the RPE and retinal function.  

LIPOFUSCIN AND MACULAR DEGENERATION. Lipofuscin is generated through oxidative stress and a result of waste products. When the retina loses phagocytosis, there is photoreceptor degeneration.(1) Diminished phagocytosis results in increased lipofuscin accumulated in the RPE, which in turn negatively affects the RPE and photoreceptors. Lipofuscin levels also increase through oxidative stress in the retina. Accumulation of lipofuscin is an indicator of RPE atrophy and macular degeneration. As powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce formation of lipofuscin. Zeaxanthin in particular can further help by supporting the phagocytosis removal of lipofuscin.(3,4)

The RPE contains the pigments melanin (in melanosomes) and lipofuscin. Melanin is an antioxidant pigment, whereas lipofucsin is the byproduct of waste material from photoreceptor removal and oxidative stress, which increases with dysfunction of phagocytosis. The accumulation of lipofuscin  reduces the protection of melanin and increases oxidative stress of the RPE.(2)  

While melanin is a powerful protector of the retina, aging affects the ability of melanin to protect the eye. Older melanosomes exposed to blue light, significantly inhibited phagocytosis - which accelerated degeneration of photoreceptors.. Therefore, the phototoxicity of melansomes increase with age. However, the antioxidant zeaxanthin has been shown to reduce the phototoxicity potential.(3)


(1) By reducing Phototoxicity / Photooxidation damage of retinal cellular membranes associated with aging.

(2) By supporting Phagocytosis.and the Maintenance of the RPE. 

Meso zeaxanthin is the most powerful version of zeaxanthin, and is found in the central macula.





(1) Valiente-Soriano F, et al. Tracing the retina to analyze the integrity and phagocytic capacity of the retinal pigment epithelium.Sci Rep. 2020.

(2) Bonilha V.. Age and disease-related structural changes in the retinal pigment epithelium. Clin. Ophthalmol. 2008 Jun

(3) Olchawa M, et al. The effect of aging and antioxidants on photoreactivity and phototoxicity of human melanosomes; an in vitro study. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res, 2020 Jul 23.

(4) Olchawa M, et al. Zeaxanthin and α-tocopherol reduce the inhibitory effects of photodynamic stress on phagocytosis by ARPE-19 cells. Free Radic Biol Med. 2015 Dec.

Carnosic Acid - Protects Retina and Supports Healthy Cartilage

Carnosic acid, an extract from the herb Rosemary, is a powerful activator of cellular endogenous antioxidants, through involvement in increasing Nrf2 transcription.  Since carnosic acid crosses the blood-brain barrier, there is significant provisioning of protection of the brain and neural tissue.(1) In addition, the retina is primarily neural tissue, which benefits greatly from carnosic acid.


  • Reduces Light Induced Damage - Continued light exposure created free  radicals in the retina, which are destructive to the photoreceptors. (1,2)
  • Age-Related Macular degeneration (AMD) - Photoreceptors are also loss in AMD. Studies involving lab animals suggest that the addition of carnosic acid (rosemary extract) to other vision supplements, i.e. AREDS, may maximize effectiveness in reducing retinal damage. (3)
  • Slows Photoreceptor Degeneration. In mouse models of retinitis pigmentosa, carnosic acid has been shown to slow the loss of photoreceptors.(4)
  • Reduces Acyrlamide Toxicity - A toxic compound resulting from the heating of carbohydrates, and occurs in many everyday foods, including potato chips, and other heated foods.Acrylamide crosses the blood-brain barrier and is destructive to the  retina. (5,6)


  • Activates Heme-Oxygenase-1  (HO--1). HO-1 promotes reduction of inflammation in the cartilage, which is characteristic of cartilage degeneration.  As such, carnosic acid promotes preservation of cartilage and inhibition of the degenerative process. Researchers concluded that carnosic acid both prevents cartilage degeneration and the severity of osteoarthritis, as evidenced by animal models.(7)
  • Chondrocytes, the cartilage producing cells, are negatively impacted by inflammation, and carnosic acid, improves the function and longevity of the chondrocytes. (8)
  • Improves  Chondrocyte Gene Expression. Helps maintain the ability of the chondrocyte to produce cartilage.(8). 







(1) Rezaie T, et al. Protective effect of carnosic acid, a pro-electrophilic compound, in models of oxidative stress and light-induced retinal degeneration. Invest, Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2012 Nov

(2) Contin MA, et al. Light pollution: the possible consequences of excessive illumination on retina. Eye (Lond). 2016 Feb

(3) Wong P, et al, Enhancing the efficacy of AREDS antioxidants in light-induced retinal degeneration. Mol Vis. 2017 Oct

(4) Kang K, et al. Carnosic acid slows photoreceptor degeneration in the Pde6b(rd10) mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. Sci Rep. 2016 Mar

(5) Albalawi A, et al. Protective effect of carnosic acid against acrylamide-induced toxicity in RPE cells. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Oct

(6) Albalawi A, et al. Carnosic acid attenuates acrylamide-induced retinal toxicity in zebrafish embryos. Exp Eye Res. 2018 Oct;

 (6) Ishitobi H, et al. Carnosic acid attenuates cartilage degeneration through induction of heme oxygenase-1 in human articular chondrocytes.

(7) Ravaili S, et al. Recently highlighted nutraceuticals for preventive management of osteoarthritis. World J Orthop. 2018 Nov

(8) Schwager J, et al.  Carnosol and Related Substances Modulate Chemokine and Cytokine Production in Macrophages and Chondrocytes. Molecules. 2016 Apr