Protective effect of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) extracts on cultured human corneal limbal epithelial cells (HCLEC)

Phytother Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):520-4. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2974.


The use of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) as a food and medicine for improving human vision has a long history all over the world. However, there is lack of convincing evidence from rigorous clinical trials or scientific research. This study investigated the effects of different concentrations of bilberry extracts on the cell viability, cell cycle and the expression of hyaluronic acid and glycosaminoglycans of cultured human corneal limbal epithelial cells. The data showed that bilberry extracts had no cytotoxicity to the corneal limbal epithelial cells at a wide range of concentrations (10(-9)-10(-4) M, equalized to the content of cyanidin-3-O-glucoside). Bilberry extract (10(-6), 10(-5) and 10(-4) M) increased cell viability after 48 h incubation. The number of cells decreased in G(0)/G(1) phase and increased prominently in S and G(2)/M phases after treatment with bilberry extracts at a high concentration (10(-4) M). The expression of glycosaminoglycans increased prominently after incubation with bilberry extracts (10(-7) and 10(-4) M) for 48 h while no significant changes were observed for the expression of hyaluronic acid. The results indicated that bilberry extract may be beneficial for the physiological renewal and homeostasis of corneal epithelial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / metabolism
  • Limbus Corneae / drug effects*
  • Limbus Corneae / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Vaccinium myrtillus*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Plant Extracts
  • Vaccinium myrtillus extract
  • Hyaluronic Acid