DEC 04, 2017 06:08 PM PST

Fish Oil Protects Vision Cells From Future Damage

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Fish oil, made from fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel, is commonly taken as a supplement for a variety of health benefits. Now researchers have shown that it can help protect cells in the eye that are critical to our sense of vision, from future damage. Their work, reported in the journal Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, has demonstrated that DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and its docosoanoid derivatives, act on photoreceptor and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, preconditioning them to survive.

Fish oil supplements / Credit: Pixabay

Preconditioning is a process that shields cells, so they are protected from some future damage or harsh state. In this research, the investigators define the preconditioning phenomenon as a drug that delivers a stressful, but non-lethal, blow which activates a protective countermeasure against a future lethal stress. One example of it is when the blood supply to an organ is cut off for awhile and then restored. Such an injury would cause a protective response that has a residual effect on another blood supply interruption.

"Our findings support the proposed concept that DHA and docosanoids (molecules made in the brain at the onset of injury or disease) are responsible for activating sustained cellular mechanisms that elicit long-term preconditioning protection," said Nicolas Bazan, M.D., Ph.D., Boyd Professor and Director of LSU Health New Orleans Neuroscience Center of Excellence.

Researchers are starting to drill down to the mechanisms that underlie the beneficial action of fish oil, and where it exerts its effects. “This happens in the heart, brain, and retina, as well as other organs," Dr. Bazan said. "To harness the therapeutic potential of preconditioning, it is very important to identify the molecules directly involved."

There are two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in fish oil, omega-3 (docosahexaenoic acid or DHA) and omega-6 (arachidonic acid or AA). They each have their own mode of action. See more about them in the video. Omega-3 PUFAs and docosanoids, made after the enzymatic breakdown of omega-3 PUFAs, have potent anti-inflammatory properties, compared to the pro-inflammatory actions of omega-6 PUFA derivatives. The researchers discovered that although they get released together, DHA has an impact on the action of AA. When DHA was introduced before the oxidative stress insult, there was an increased production of protective DHA derivatives, and the synthesis of AA went down over time.

"Our findings demonstrate that DHA and the induction of docosanoid synthesis [are] necessary for preconditioning protection, and thus daily survival, of photoreceptor and RPE cells," noted Bazan. "Since omega-3 impairments are associated with neuroinflammation, which contributes to photoreceptor cell dysfunction and death, enhancing the synthesis of docosanoids may provide an opportunity for halting or ameliorating debilitating retinal degenerative diseases, such as the dry form of age-related macular degeneration," concluded Bazan.

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurkalert! Via Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 03, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 03, 2018
New Insight Into the Regulation of Sleep
Once thought of as supporting structures, researchers are uncovering more roles for astrocytes, a type of cell in the brain with a shape like a star....
NOV 05, 2018
Videos
NOV 05, 2018
The Mechanisms Underlying the Deadly Blow of the Mantis Shrimp
The mantis shrimp packs a powerful punch that can strike its enemies with one of the fastest moves in the animal kingdom....
NOV 06, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 06, 2018
Mapping the Brain
The brain still holds many mysteries, but scientists are finding ways to learn more about how it works....
NOV 16, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 16, 2018
Using Light to Control Organ Development
Optogenetics combined genetic engineering with optics to create a way to control cellular behaviors with light....
NOV 20, 2018
Cardiology
NOV 20, 2018
What Makes Some Fats Bad
You may recall hearing at some point that there are “good fats“ and “bad fats.“ What does that really mean? But what makes one type...
NOV 26, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 26, 2018
Researcher Claims to Have Genetically Engineered Human Babies
Shocking the scientific community, a Chinese scientist announced that he edited human embryos, and twins have been born....
Loading Comments...