Astaxanthin Protects Against Retinal Damage: Evidence from In Vivo and In Vitro Retinal Ischemia and Reperfusion Models

Curr Eye Res. 2016 Nov;41(11):1465-1472. doi: 10.3109/02713683.2015.1127392. Epub 2016 May 9.


Purpose: Astaxanthin exhibits various pharmacological activities, including anti-oxidative, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory effects, and is thought to exert a neuroprotective effect via these mechanisms. The purpose of this study was to investigate the protective effects of astaxanthin on neuronal cell death using a retinal ischemia/reperfusion model.

Methods: In vivo, retinal ischemia was induced by 5 h unilateral ligation of the pterygopalatine artery (PPA) and the external carotid artery (ECA) in ddY mice. Astaxanthin (100 mg/kg) was administered orally 1 h before induction of ischemia, immediately after reperfusion, at 6 or 12 h after reperfusion, and twice daily for the following 4 days. Histological analysis and an electroretinogram (ERG) were performed 5 days after ischemia/reperfusion. In vitro, cell death was induced in the RGC-5 (retinal precursor cells) by oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD), and the rates of cell death and production of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) were measured using nuclear staining and a ROS reactive reagent, CM-H2DCFDA.

Results: Histological studies revealed that astaxanthin significantly reduced retinal ischemic damage and ERG reduction. In in vitro studies, astaxanthin inhibited cell death and ROS production in a concentration-dependent manner.

Conclusions: Collectively, these results indicate that astaxanthin inhibits ischemia-induced retinal cell death via its antioxidant effect. Hence, astaxanthin might be effective in treating retinal ischemic pathologies.

Keywords: Astaxanthin; ROS; ischemia; neuroprotection; retina.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electroretinography
  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reperfusion Injury / diagnosis
  • Reperfusion Injury / physiopathology
  • Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control*
  • Retinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retinal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology*
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine