Saffron Abstracts 1


Influence of saffron supplementation on retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration

         (Falsini, Piccardi et al. 2010) Download

PURPOSE: To evaluate the functional effect of short-term supplementation of saffron, a spice containing the antioxidant carotenoids crocin and crocetin, in early age-related macular degeneration (AMD). METHODS: Twenty-five patients with AMD were randomly assigned to oral saffron 20 mg/d or placebo supplementation over a 3-month period and then reverted to placebo or saffron for a further 3 months. Focal electroretinograms (fERGs) and clinical findings were recorded at baseline and after 3 months of saffron or placebo supplementation. fERGs were recorded in response to a sinusoidally modulated (41 Hz), uniform field presented to the macular region (18 degrees ) at different modulations between 16.5% and 93.5%. Main outcome measures were fERG amplitude (in microvolts), phase (in degrees), and modulation thresholds. RESULTS: After saffron, patients' fERGs were increased in amplitude, compared with either baseline or values found after placebo supplementation (mean change after saffron, 0.25 log muV; mean change after placebo, -0.003 log muV; P < 0.01). fERG thresholds were decreased after saffron supplementation but not placebo, compared with baseline (mean change after saffron, -0.26 log units; mean change after placebo, 0.0003 log units). CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that short-term saffron supplementation improves retinal flicker sensitivity in early AMD. Although the results must be further replicated and the clinical significance is yet to be evaluated, they provide important clues that nutritional carotenoids may affect AMD in novel and unexpected ways, possibly beyond their antioxidant properties. ( number, NCT00951288.).

Safranal, a saffron constituent, attenuates retinal degeneration in P23H rats

         (Fernandez-Sanchez, Lax et al. 2012) Download

Saffron, an extract from Crocus sativus, has been largely used in traditional medicine for its antiapoptotic and anticarcinogenic properties. In this work, we investigate the effects of safranal, a component of saffron stigmas, in attenuating retinal degeneration in the P23H rat model of autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa. We demonstrate that administration of safranal to homozygous P23H line-3 rats preserves both photoreceptor morphology and number. Electroretinographic recordings showed higher a- and b-wave amplitudes under both photopic and scotopic conditions in safranal-treated versus non-treated animals. Furthermore, the capillary network in safranal-treated animals was preserved, unlike that found in untreated animals. Our findings indicate that dietary supplementation with safranal slows photoreceptor cell degeneration and ameliorates the loss of retinal function and vascular network disruption in P23H rats. This work also suggests that safranal could be potentially useful to retard retinal degeneration in patients with retinitis pigmentosa.

Saffron supplement maintains morphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina

         (Maccarone, Di Marco et al. 2008) Download

PURPOSE: To test whether the saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.) given as a dietary supplement counteracts the effects of continuous light exposure in the albino rat retina. METHODS: Three experimental groups of Sprague-Dawley rats were used. Experimental animals were prefed either saffron or beta-carotene (1 mg extract/kg/d) before they were exposed to bright continuous light (BCL) for 24 hours. Flash electroretinograms (fERGs) were recorded in control and treated rats the day before and 1 week after light exposure. At the end of the second recording session, the animals were killed and the retinas were quickly removed, fixed, cryosectioned, and labeled so that the thickness of the outer nuclear layer (ONL) could be analyzed. Changes in protein level and cellular localization of fibroblast growth factor (FGF)2 were determined by Western blot analysis and retinal immunohistochemistry, respectively. In a second series of experiments, rats were killed at the end of light exposure, and the amount of apoptotic figures in the ONL was assessed by terminal transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate (d-UTP)-biotin nick-end labeling (TUNEL). BCL induced DNA fragmentation, characteristic of dying cells, almost exclusively in the photoreceptor layer. The rate of photoreceptor death induced by BCL is expressed as the frequency of TUNEL-positive profiles per millimeter. RESULTS: The photoreceptor layer was largely preserved in saffron-treated animals because it was the fERG response. In addition, the rate of photoreceptor death induced by BCL appeared drastically reduced in treated animals. In beta-carotene prefeeding experiments, morphologic analysis showed preservation of the ONL similar to that obtained with saffron prefeeding, whereas the fERG response was unrecordable. Western blot analysis showed that exposure to light induced a strong upregulation of FGF2 in control and beta-carotene-treated rats, but s no change was noted in saffron-treated rats. CONCLUSIONS: These results show that saffron may protect photoreceptors from retinal stress, maintaining both morphology and function and probably acting as a regulator of programmed cell death.

Saffron administration prevents selenite-induced cataractogenesis

         (Makri, Ferlemi et al. 2013) Download

PURPOSE: The present study sought to investigate whether Crocus sativus stigmas (saffron) extract prevents selenium-induced cataractogenesis in vivo, and to study its possible protective mechanism. METHODS: Wistar rat pups were randomized into three groups. Group I (control) received subcutaneous injection of normal saline on postnatal day 10. Groups II (selenite-treated) and III (selenite+saffron-treated) received subcutaneous injection of sodium selenite (20 micromol/kg body weight) on postnatal day 10. Group III also received intraperitoneal injections of saffron extract (60 mg/kg body weight) on postnatal days 9 and 12. On postpartum day 21, rats were sacrificed and the lenses were isolated and examined for cataract formation. Activities of superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and glutathione levels, as markers of antioxidant defense, were measured in the isolated lenses. Levels of the indicator of lipid peroxidation, malondialdehyde, and protein oxidation (sulfhydryl content) in the lens were also determined. The effect of the different treatments on lens protein profile was evaluated through an estimation of the soluble to insoluble protein ratio and sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis of the water-soluble fraction (WSF) of lens proteins. RESULTS: Saffron demonstrated significant protection against selenite-induced cataractogenesis in vivo. The mean activities of superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and glutathione levels were significantly increased in group III compared to the selenite-treated group. Saffron significantly prevented selenite-induced lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation, and proteolysis and insolubilization of the lens WSF. CONCLUSIONS: Saffron extract prevented selenite-induced cataract formation in Wistar rats, possibly through the reinforcement of antioxidant status, reduction of the intensity of lipid peroxidation, protection of the sulfhydryl groups, and inhibition of proteolysis of the lens WSF. These findings highlight the anticataractogenic potential of saffron by virtue of its antioxidant property.

Gene and noncoding RNA regulation underlying photoreceptor protection: microarray study of dietary antioxidant saffron and photobiomodulation in rat retina

         (Natoli, Zhu et al. 2010) Download

PURPOSE: To identify the genes and noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) involved in the neuroprotective actions of a dietary antioxidant (saffron) and of photobiomodulation (PBM). METHODS: We used a previously published assay of photoreceptor damage, in which albino Sprague Dawley rats raised in dim cyclic illumination (12 h 5 lux, 12 h darkness) were challenged by 24 h exposure to bright (1,000 lux) light. Experimental groups were protected against light damage by pretreatment with dietary saffron (1 mg/kg/day for 21 days) or PBM (9 J/cm(2) at the eye, daily for 5 days). RNA from one eye of four animals in each of the six experimental groups (control, light damage [LD], saffron, PBM, saffronLD, and PBMLD) was hybridized to Affymetrix rat genome ST arrays. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis of 14 selected genes was used to validate the microarray results. RESULTS: LD caused the regulation of 175 entities (genes and ncRNAs) beyond criterion levels (p<0.05 in comparison with controls, fold-change >2). PBM pretreatment reduced the expression of 126 of these 175 LD-regulated entities below criterion; saffron pretreatment reduced the expression of 53 entities (50 in common with PBM). In addition, PBM pretreatment regulated the expression of 67 entities not regulated by LD, while saffron pretreatment regulated 122 entities not regulated by LD (48 in common with PBM). PBM and saffron, given without LD, regulated genes and ncRNAs beyond criterion levels, but in lesser numbers than during their protective action. A high proportion of the entities regulated by LD (>90%) were known genes. By contrast, ncRNAs were prominent among the entities regulated by PBM and saffron in their neuroprotective roles (73% and 62%, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Given alone, saffron and (more prominently) PBM both regulated significant numbers of genes and ncRNAs. Given before retinal exposure to damaging light, thus while exerting their neuroprotective action, they regulated much larger numbers of entities, among which ncRNAs were prominent. Further, the downregulation of known genes and of ncRNAs was prominent in the protective actions of both neuroprotectants. These comparisons provide an overview of gene expression induced by two neuroprotectants and provide a basis for the more focused study of their mechanisms.

A longitudinal follow-up study of saffron supplementation in early age-related macular degeneration: sustained benefits to central retinal function

         (Piccardi, Marangoni et al. 2012) Download

Objectives. In a previous randomized clinical trial (Falsini et al. (2010)), it was shown that short-term Saffron supplementation improves retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The aim of this study was to evaluate whether the observed functional benefits from Saffron supplementation may extend over a longer follow-up duration. Design. Longitudinal, interventional open-label study. Setting. Outpatient ophthalmology setting. Participants. Twenty-nine early AMD patients (age range: 55-85 years) with a baseline visual acuity >0.3. Intervention. Saffron oral supplementation (20 mg/day) over an average period of treatment of 14 (+/-2) months. Measurements. Clinical examination and focal-electroretinogram-(fERG-) derived macular (18 degrees ) flicker sensitivity estimate (Falsini et al. (2010)) every three months over a followup of 14 (+/-2) months. Retinal sensitivity, the reciprocal value of the estimated fERG amplitude threshold, was the main outcome measure. Results. After three months of supplementation, mean fERG sensitivity improved by 0.3 log units compared to baseline values (P < 0.01), and mean visual acuity improved by two Snellen lines compared to baseline values (0.75 to 0.9, P < 0.01). These changes remained stable over the follow-up period. Conclusion. These results indicate that in early AMD Saffron supplementation induces macular function improvements from baseline that are extended over a long-term followup.


Falsini, B., M. Piccardi, et al. (2010). "Influence of saffron supplementation on retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration." Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 51(12): 6118-24. [PMID: 20688744]

Fernandez-Sanchez, L., P. Lax, et al. (2012). "Safranal, a saffron constituent, attenuates retinal degeneration in P23H rats." PLoS One 7(8): e43074. [PMID: 22900092]

Maccarone, R., S. Di Marco, et al. (2008). "Saffron supplement maintains morphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina." Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 49(3): 1254-61. [PMID: 18326756]

Makri, O. E., A. V. Ferlemi, et al. (2013). "Saffron administration prevents selenite-induced cataractogenesis." Mol Vis 19: 1188-97. [PMID: 23734088]

Natoli, R., Y. Zhu, et al. (2010). "Gene and noncoding RNA regulation underlying photoreceptor protection: microarray study of dietary antioxidant saffron and photobiomodulation in rat retina." Mol Vis 16: 1801-22. [PMID: 20844572]

Piccardi, M., D. Marangoni, et al. (2012). "A longitudinal follow-up study of saffron supplementation in early age-related macular degeneration: sustained benefits to central retinal function." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2012: 429124. [PMID: 22852021]