Objectives: Lycopene, a nutritional antioxidant, was evaluated for its anticataract potential to further establish its role in cataract prevention.
Methods: The ability of lycopene to modulate the biochemical parameters was investigated by in vitro studies. Enucleated rat lenses were maintained in organ culture containing Dulbecco's Modified Eagles Medium alone or in addition with 100 microM selenite and served as the normal and control groups, respectively. For the test group, the control medium was supplemented with 10 microM lycopene. The lenses were incubated for 24 h at 37 degrees C. At the end of the incubation period, the lenses were examined for morphologic variation, and biochemical parameters such as reduced glutathione, the lipid peroxidation product malondialdehyde, and the antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase, glutathione S-transferase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase were estimated. In vivo selenite cataract was induced in 9-d-old rats by subcutaneous injection of sodium selenite (25 micromoles/kg of body weight). The rats in the test group were injected with lycopene (200 microg/kg body weight, intraperitoneally) 4 h before the selenite challenge. The incidence of cataract was observed when the rats first opened their eyes. Galactose cataract was induced in rats by feeding 30% galactose in the diet. Rats in the test group were fed orally with 200 microg/kg of lycopene daily, and rats in the control group received only vehicle. Cataract stages were graded at regular intervals.
Results: A fall (25%) in the glutathione level and a rise (32%) in the malondialdehyde content were observed in control as opposed to normal lenses. Lycopene supplementation in the medium significantly (P < 0.001) restored glutathione and malondialdehyde levels. A significant decrease in the activity of antioxidant enzymes also was observed in the control lenses. A significant restoration in the activities of superoxide dismutase (P < 0.05) and catalase and glutathione S-transferase (P < 0.01), with no effect on glutathione peroxidase, was observed in the lycopene-supplemented group. Lycopene also reduced the incidence of selenite cataract. Only 9% of the eyes in the test group developed dense nuclear opacity as opposed to 83% in the control group. A significant delay in the onset and progression of galactose cataract was observed with oral feeding of lycopene. Only 35% of the eyes developed mature cataract as opposed to 100% in the control group.
Conclusions: Lycopene protects against experimental cataract development by virtue of its antioxidant properties, and it may be useful for prophylaxis or therapy against cataracts.