A recent research has suggested that treatment with omega-3 fatty acids could help to improve the outcomes of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Regular intake of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexanoic acid (DHA) might offer a new way of protecting against traumatic brain injury (TBI). Docosahexanoic acid is one of the main fatty acids found in the brain, where it may play a number of "neuroprotective" roles.
Although only preliminary, the results raise the "intriguing" possibility of preventive treatment with DHA in groups at high risk of TBI, such as military personnel and athletes in contact sports-including football players. The lead author is Dr. Julian E. Bailes of West Virginia University, Morgantown.
In the experiment, rats were treated with DHA at varying doses, equivalent to those used in humans taking DHA supplements. After one month of treatment, tissue and behavioral responses to induced TBI were compared between groups of treated animals.
The tissue damage caused by TBI was significantly reduced in rats taking the highest dose of DHA: 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Cellular findings included a significant reduction in expression of a protein (beta amyloid protein) that has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Animals receiving the highest dose of DHA before TBI also had reduced expression of key indicators of brain cell death (caspase 3 and macrophages). The DHA-treated rats also performed better on a test of spatial memory, indicating less behavioral impairment.
The new study adds to recent evidence suggesting that DHA may be the first treatment of any type to reduce brain tissue damage caused by TBI.
This omega-3 fatty acid is widely available from an algae or fish oil source.
The study appears in the February issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.