The study – published in The Journal of Neuroscience – suggests that a high level of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the body could lead to protection of nerve cells and have beneficial effects on the recovery of nerves after a peripheral nerve injury (PNI). The research, led by scientists from Queen Mary, University of London, UK, suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could play a significant role in speeding up recovery from nerve injury.
“Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been shown to have therapeutic potential in a variety of neurological disorders, including acute traumatic injury. The objective of this study was to assess the neuroprotective and pro-regenerative potential of omega-3 PUFAs in PNI,” explained the research team, led by Professor Adina Michael-Titus.
"Our previous research has shown that these fatty acids could have beneficial effects in a number of neurological conditions. This new study suggests that they could also have a role in treating peripheral nerve injuries,” said Michael-Titus.
She added that although further work is needed, the initial research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids “can protect damaged nerve cells, which is a critical first step in a successful neurological recovery."
Nerve damage from accidents and injuries can lead to pain, weakness and muscle paralysis – which can leave people disabled. Despite the ability of peripheral nerves to regenerate, and advances in medical techniques, recovery from nerve damage is poor in all but minor injuries.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for the body's normal growth and development and have been widely researched for their health benefits. Because the body cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids, they have to be consumed in foods such as oily fish, or through omega-3 supplements containing fish, flax, or krill oil.
In the new study, Michael-Titus and her colleagues looked at isolated mouse nerve cells and simulated the type of damage caused by accident or injury, by either stretching the cells or starving them of oxygen.
The team found that both types of damage killed a significant number of nerve cells, however they found that enrichment with omega-3 in the cells gave them significant protection and reduced the amount of cell death.
The team then found that a high level of omega-3 fatty acids helped mice to recover from nerve injury more quickly and more fully – and that their muscles were less likely to waste following nerve damage.
Source: The Journal of Neuroscience
Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 563-571, doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3371-11.2012
“Improved Outcome after Peripheral Nerve Injury in Mice with Increased Levels of Endogenous Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids”
Authors: S.J. Gladman, W. Huang, S.N. Lim, S.C. Dyall, et al