Ohio State University researchers suggest that blocking the function of an enzyme in the brain with a specific kind of vitamin E can prevent nerve cells from from dying after a stroke.
In a study using mouse brain cells, researchers found that the tocotrienol, or TCT, form of vitamin E, an alternative to the popular drugstore supplement, stopped the enzyme from releasing fatty acids that eventually kill neurons.
The researchers have been studying how this form of vitamin E protects the brain in animal and cell models for a decade, and intend to pursue tests of its potential to both prevent and treat strokes in humans.
"Our research suggests that the different forms of natural vitamin E have distinct functions. The relatively poorly studied tocotrienol form of natural vitamin E targets specific pathways to protect against neural cell death and rescues the brain after stroke injury," said Chandan Sen, professor and vice chair for research in Ohio State's Department of Surgery and senior author of the study.
"Here, we identify a novel target for tocotrienol that explains how neural cells are protected," he said.
Vitamin E occurs naturally in eight different forms. The best-known form of vitamin E belongs to a variety called tocopherols.
Sen's lab discovered tocotrienol vitamin E's ability to protect the brain 10 years ago. But this current study offers the most specific details about how that protection works, he said.
"We have studied an enzyme that is present all the time, but one that is activated after a stroke in a way that causes neurodegeneration. We found that it can be put in check by very low levels of tocotrienol," Sen said.
"So what we have here is a naturally derived nutrient, rather than a drug, that provides this beneficial impact," he added.
The research appears online and is scheduled for later print publication in the Journal of Neurochemistry.