Omega-3's neuroprotective effects may have treatment potential against Alzheimer's: China study

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Previous studies had reported neural tissues as more susceptible to lipid peroxidation, and fish oil treatment as effective against lipid peroxidation. ©iStock
Previous studies had reported neural tissues as more susceptible to lipid peroxidation, and fish oil treatment as effective against lipid peroxidation. ©iStock

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Omega-3 fatty acids may have therapeutic effects against Alzheimer's disease, according to an in vitro study conducted by researchers at China's Tianjin Medical University and Nankai University.

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Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential for growth and development in animals, primarily in terms of intelligence, the nervous system, vision, and the metabolism of neurotransmitters.

The researchers therefore sought to explore the protective effects of omega-3 against Alzheimer's disease in rat brain microvascular endothelial cells (RBMVECs) by conducting an in vitro ​study.

They induced neurotoxicity in the cells using rotenone, an odourless, colourless crystalline isoflavone that occurs naturally in several roots, as well as the seeds and stems of certain plants. Rotenone is also commonly used as a broad-spectrum insecticide and pesticide.

Cellular observations

The cells used in the study were divided into five experimental groups: Group 1 was sham control, while each cell in group II was induced with 5μM of rotenone, and in group III, the dosage was doubled.

The cells in group IV were each induced with 5μM of rotenone and incubated with 5μM of omega-3 fatty acids, while those in group V were each induced with 10μM pf rotenone and incubated with 10μM of omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers then evaluated the levels of lipid peroxidation, reactive oxygen species (ROS), glutathione peroxidase, reduced glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase in the RBMVECs, using flow cytometry to assess apoptosis.

Malondialdehyde (MDA) was measured as an end-product of lipid peroxidation, and its contents in each group I cell were reported at 15.16 nmol/g. The figure increased dramatically in groups II and III — by 94.6% and 178% respectively.

However, MDA levels were shown to have increased by  28% and 52.7% respectively in groups IV and V, suggesting that treatment with omega-3 fatty acids "attenuated the rotenone-induced elevation in lipid peroxidation"​.

In terms of glutathione (a vital antioxidant that provides reducing equivalents for glutathione peroxidase), the researchers found that its content was 73.42mg/g in each group I cell, decreasing by 22.7% and 39% respectively in groups II and III.

This decrease was reversed in groups IV and V by a respective 14.4% and 8.5%.

By extension, glutathione peroxidase activity was found to be 0.553mg/protein in the group I cells, decreasing by 18.4% and 29.2% in groups II and III respectively. The reduction in groups IV and V was markedly less, at a respective 10.4% and 12.3%.

In the group I cells, ROS content was reported as 51.62 relative fluorescence units, increasing by 106.7% and 260.8% in groups II and III respectively. This figure was significantly lower in groups IV and V, at a respective 71.2% and 174.6%.

Rotenone was also found to increase apoptosis in the cells — while over 96% of the cells in group I were active and non-apoptotic, the number of apoptotic cells increased by 16.32% in group II and 23.52% in group III.

This increase, however, was inhibited by omega-3 treatment in groups IV and V to a respective 8.62% and 11.12%.

Fishy findings

These findings were supported by previous studies, which had reported neural tissues as more susceptible to lipid peroxidation, and fish oil treatment as effective against lipid peroxidation.

Neuroprotection had also previously been reported in the rat hippocampus after omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, validating the current study's results.

In conclusion, they wrote: "Supplementation  with  omega-3  fatty  acids  reduced  lipid  peroxidation and ROS generation and increased the levels of reduced glutathione, superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase in RBMVECs.

"This suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are a potential therapeutic agent against Alzheimer's disease."


Source: Brain and Behavior

"Protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids against Alzheimer’s disease in rat brain endothelial cells"

Authors: Lijun Wang, et al.

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