Stroke-like brain damage reduced by omega-3 acids in preclinical model

Written by Peter Brown

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (NY, USA) have treated a neonatal mouse model of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury utilizing triglyceride emulsions of docosahexaenoic acid (tri-DHA). Results indicate that treatment with tri-DHA may significantly reduce oxidative damage and improve neurological outcomes following these types of brain injury.
The study, recently published in PLOS ONE, utilized the protective abilities of bioactive omega-3 fatty acids, as a potential treatment for stroke-like brain damage. Following the treatment, the 10-day old mice were evaluated for neurofunctional and neuropathological outcomes as well as oxidative injury after 24 hours and 8–9 weeks of recovery.

At 24 hours, tri-DHA treated mice demonstrated significant reduction in neuropathological brain injury. In the following weeks, those treated with tri-DHA possessed superior results in multiple brain functions when compared to mice treated with eicosapentaenoic acid and control groups.

These treated mice also demonstrated increased concentrations of DHA in brain mitochondria, which are associated with preservation of mitochondrial tolerance to permeabilization, limiting reperfusion injury.

“Our findings suggest that injecting the omega-3 fatty acid DHA after a stroke-like event has the ability to protect brain mitochondria against the damaging effects of free radicals,” commented senior co-author, Vadim S Ten (Columbia University Medical Center).

Hypoxic-ischemic injury to the brain during or shortly after birth is a major cause of brain damage in newborns, which may result in life-long neurological impairments.  Numerous pathways involved in this type of brain damage are similar to those in an adult stroke, prompting further research into treatment utilizing omega-3 acids.

“Clinical trials are needed to determine if administering lipid emulsions containing DHA shortly after a stroke-like brain injury offers the same neuroprotective effects in babies and adults, as seen in mice. If successful, such trials could lead to the development of a novel therapy for stroke in newborns, children, and adults, addressing a major medical need,” stated senior co-author Richard J Deckelbaum (Columbia Medical Center).

Sources:  Mayurasakorn K, Niatsetskaya ZV, Sosunov SA et al. DHA but not EPA emulsions preserve neurological and mitochondrial function after brain hypoxia-ischemia in neonatal mice. PLOS ONE 11(8), e0160870 (2016);