Trehalose: an intriguing disaccharide with potential for medical application in ophthalmology.
Trehalose is a naturally occurring disaccharide comprised of two molecules of glucose. The sugar is widespread in many species of plants and animals, where its function appears to be to protect cells against desiccation, but is not found in mammals. Trehalose has the ability to protect cellular membranes and labile proteins against damage and denaturation as a result of desiccation and oxidative stress. Trehalose appears to be the most effective sugar for protection against desiccation. Although the exact mechanism by which trehalose protects labile macromolecules and lipid membranes is unknown, credible hypotheses do exist. As well as being used in large quantities in the food industry, trehalose is used in the biopharmaceutical preservation of labile protein drugs and in the cryopreservation of human cells. Trehalose is under investigation for a number of medical applications, including the treatment of Huntington's chorea and Alzheimer's disease. Recent studies have shown that trehalose can also prevent damage to mammalian eyes caused by desiccation and oxidative insult. These unique properties of trehalose have thus prompted its investigation as a component in treatment for dry eye syndrome. This interesting and unique disaccharide appears to have properties which may be exploited in ophthalmology and other disease states.
Clin Ophthalmol. 2011;5:577-81. Epub 2011 May 10.
Luyckx J, Baudouin C.
Thea Laboratories, Clermont-Ferrand.