Tuesday, January 17, 2012. In the January 11, 2012 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at Queen Mary University of London report that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may help protect peripheral nerves from injury and stimulate recovery. Damage to the peripheral nerves can cause symptoms ranging from pain to paralysis, and recovery is often limited.
For the current research, Adina Michael-Titus and her associates utilized normal mice or mice bred to express a gene that results in an increase in endogenous omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids accompanied by a decrease in omega 6 fatty acids. Individual peripheral nerve cells derived from both types of mice were mechanically injured or deprived of oxygen and assessed for viability.
Nerve cells derived from mice that had higher omega-3 levels had significantly more protection from either type of injury compared to cells derived from normal mice. When animals from each group underwent injury to their sciatic nerves, those in the modified group experienced greater functional recovery after one week and less muscle atrophy in comparison with the normal mice.
"Our previous research has shown that these fatty acids could have beneficial effects in a number of neurological conditions," explained Dr Michael-Titus, who is a professor of neuroscience at Barts and The London Medical School and head of the Neurotrauma and Neurodegeneration group in the Centre for Neuroscience and Trauma at Queen Mary University of London. "More work is needed but our research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids can protect damaged nerve cells, which is a critical first step in a successful neurological recovery."
Sandeep Prabhu and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University report in the December 22, 2011 issue of the journal Blood that a compound derived from eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega 3 fatty acid that occurs in high amounts in fish, cured chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in two mouse models of the disease.
In recent research, cyclooxygenase-derived cyclopentenone prostaglandins (CyPGs) were identified as possible agents to target cancer stem cells. Currently available treatments for leukemia and other cancers fail to destroy stem cells, which results in relapses of the disease. "The patients must take the drugs continuously," noted study coauthor Robert F. Paulson, who is an associate professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences at Penn State. "If they stop, the disease relapses because the leukemia stem cells are resistant to the drugs."
For the current experiments, the researchers administered a CyPG compound known as delta-12-protaglandin J3 (D12-PGJ3, derived from EPA) to leukemic mice for one week. Animals that received the compound had normal spleens and blood counts, and increased survival without relapse after being treated. "This treatment completely eradicated leukemia stem cells in vivo, as demonstrated by the inability of donor cells from treated mice to cause leukemia in secondary transplantations," the authors write.
"Research in the past on fatty acids has shown the health benefits of fatty acids on cardiovascular system and brain development, particularly in infants, but we have shown that some metabolites of omega 3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells in mice," stated Dr Prabhu, who is an associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology at Penn State's Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences. "The important thing is that the mice were completely cured of leukemia with no relapse."
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