Research » Fish Oil Limits Brain Damage
Fish Oil Limits Brain Damage
Research led by Dr. Nicolas Bazan, Boyd Professor, Villere Chair, and Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, has shown that Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a component of fish oil, is a powerful therapeutic agent that can protect brain tissue and promote recovery in an experimental model of acute ischemic stroke, even when treatment is delayed by up to five hours.
These findings not only target a new stroke treatment approach, but also provide vital information about the length of the therapeutic window. The NIH-funded research is published in the journal, Translational Stroke Research.
DHA has potent anti-inflammatory effects. Since inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, DHA treatment has been widely demonstrated to have beneficial effects in patients with coronary heart disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, sepsis, cancer, dry eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration, but its potential benefit in stroke was not known.
"We are just now beginning to understand the significant impact of omega-3 essential fatty acids on stroke," notes Dr. Bazan.
To determine how DHA might be effective in stroke treatment and recovery, the LSUHSC research team administered either DHA or saline intravenously at 3, 4, 5, and 6 hours after the onset of stroke. MRIs showed that neurological deficits were reduced by the administration of DHA. DHA treatment reduced swelling and facilitated neurobehavioral recovery.
The volume of the area of destroyed tissue was reduced by an average of 40% when DHA was administered at 3 hours, 66% at 4 hours, and 59% at 5 hours. Further analysis showed it triggered production of Neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), a naturally occurring neuroprotective molecule in the brain derived from DHA and discovered by Dr. Bazan. Not only did DHA treatment salvage brain tissue that would have died, its repair mechanisms rendered some areas indistinguishable from normal tissue by 7 days.