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Andrew T C Tsin, Brandi Obregon; Aspartame Effect on Cell Viability and VEGF Secretion on Rhesus Monkey Retinal Endothelial Cells in culture. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(9):5352.
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Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, while type 2 diabetes affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose). Over 29.1 million people (or 9.3% of the population) have been diagnosed with diabetes (1.8 million of which are in Texas). At least 8.1 million people (27.8 % of the U.S. population) are undiagnosed. Worldwide, it is estimated that 285 million people have diabetes. Of these 285 million, over one-third show signs of Diabetic Retinopathy (DR). As the body’s ability to process sugar is the main issue, the use of sugar substitutes has become a dietary staple for most diabetic patients; the most prevalent of which is aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial, non-saccharide, sweetener found in many popular sugar free foods and beverages. In our previous studies, we reported that high glucose levels induced VEGF secretion in cultured retinal cells. Could aspartame be a similar contributing factor to VEGF secretion, implication a role in the development of DR?
Methods: Rhesus Monkey Retinal Endothelial (RhREC) Cells were seeded in 6 well plates at 100k cells per well. Cells were then treated with 0, 50, and 100uM of N-(L-α-Aspartyl)-L-phenylalanine, 1-methyl ester) for 72hrs. Conditioned medium was collected and ELISA was used to determine levels of VEGF secretion. Cells were also collected and counted for viability using trypan blue dye exclusion method.
Results: Number of viable cells after 72hrs treatment increased from 100k (control; n=6) to 125k (50uM; n=6) and 118k (100uM; n=6). VEGF levels increased from 500 pg/ml (control; n=6) to 750 pg/ml (50uM; n=6) and 1000 pg/ml (100uM; n=6).
Conclusions: While cell viability was not significantly affected by the addition of aspartame to the culture medium. The amount of VEGF secreted by these cells increased by 50%-100% over controls. This suggests that aspartame may have a strong effect on VEGF secretion in some ocular cells. Further studies will need to be carried out in order to fully understand this effect on diabetics who consume foods and beverages which contain this chemical sweetener, as well as its role in the development of DR.
This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2018 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 29 - May 3, 2018.
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