Plant physiologist Dr Tim O'Hare (right) shows Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh the experimental corn UQ Gatton researchers hope will help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Plant physiologist Dr Tim O'Hare (right) shows Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh the experimental corn UQ Gatton researchers hope will help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Derek Barry

UQ Gatton sweet corn solution to slow blindness

A NEW type of sweet corn currently under development at UQ Gatton may soon provide a cure to blindness.

The sweet corn is high in zeaxanthin, a yellow-old pigment which could help slow eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading form of blindness in Australia.

University of Queensland scientist Dr Tim O'Hare said the macula is at the centre of the retina and degeneration resulted in a loss of central vision, which affected reading and driving.

"We can't synthesise a defence against it, we have to get pigments such as zeaxanthin and lutein from things like corn to help us absorb blue light and slow down the process of degeneration," Dr O'Hare said.

 "High-zeaxanthin sweet corn is easily recognised by its rich golden colour, a characteristic that will distinguish it in the market place."

Agriculture Minister John McVeigh came out to Gatton last week to inspect the crop.

"The levels of zeaxanthin in our 10 new 'SuperGold' varieties of sweet corn are more than seven times higher than other varieties on the market," Mr McVeigh said.

Mr McVeigh said research and development would support the future growth of the sector.

"It's hoped the new sweet corn hybrids will be commercially available in the next few years," he said.

The DAFF Queensland project has been going for five years with funding from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and Horticulture Australia.


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