Fatty acid protects brain cells from dying

February 5th, 2010 - 1:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 5 (IANS) Falling fatty acid DHA levels in brain cells activates the rise of zinc levels, killing the cells, says a new study.
Researchers at Deakin University believe they have discovered how the omega-3 fatty acid DHA can help prevent brain cells from dying.

This finding could have implications for reducing the risk of brain function loss associated with Alzheimer’s.

“Previous research has suggested that there is a link between low levels in the brain of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA and Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Deakin University cellular biologist and project leader, Leigh Ackland, a professor.

“Also, the incidence of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s appears to be reduced in populations with a high omega-3 fatty acid diet.”

Ackland said she and her colleagues looked specifically at the relationship between DHA and zinc in the brain’s neuronal cells - the cells responsible for transmitting signals in the brain.

“We found that when the level of DHA in neuronal cells drops, the level of zinc rises. The higher levels of zinc can be toxic, resulting in cell death. This type of cell death is a key feature of neuro-degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

“We believe that having omega-3 fatty acids in the diet helps keep the levels of zinc in the brain in balance and helps prevents the increase in levels that triggers cell death,” Ackland said, according to a university release.

These findings have been published in molecular biosciences journal FEBS Letters.

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