Omega-3s Help Heal Nerves

High omega-3 levels help mouse neurons heal better after injury.

Jan 18, 2012
Sabrina Richards

FLICKR, MIKEBLOGS

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, may have applications in preventing and healing from nerve injury, according to a new study in The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers at Queen Mary University in London found that neurons from mice with high levels of endogenous omega-3 fatty acids were protected against stretching or oxygen starvation-induced injury.

Scientists compared the neurons of mice expressing fat-1, a fatty acid desaturase derived from the nematode C. elegans that converts omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s, to those of wildtype mice. Both groups of animals were fed an omega-6-rich diet, which resulted in high circulating omega-3 levels in fat-1 mice. When the researchers subjected the mice’s neurons to either hypoxia or stretching, they found that cells from fat-1 mice showed less injury than wildtype cells rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Similarly, fat-1 mice subjected to sciatic nerve injury recovered sensation more quickly than their wildtype counterparts, leading the researchers to hypothesize that higher endogenous levels of omega-3 fatty acids could have protective effects against nerve injury. (Hat tip to FierceBiotech)