October 23rd 2005
Fatty acids — good for the brain, good for Alzheimer disease
A number of studies suggest a protective action of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cognitive decline and in Alzheimer disease (AD); however, the molecular mechanism has not been understood. Now, Lukiw et al. identify a specific mechanism by which DHA is neuroprotective in AD (pages 2774–2783). The authors report that DHA can decrease levels of pathogenic amyloid-ß, which are associated with AD pathology in human brain cells. Meanwhile, the synthesis of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), an endogenous DHA-derived messenger, is upregulated. NPD1 inhibits apoptosis triggered by amyloid-ß peptides. In a human AD donor brain, the authors show that DHA and NPD1 are reduced in vulnerable brain regions. These data raise the possibility that NPD1 is a key regulator of cell survival and might be manipulated for the development of novel therapeutic strategies against neurodegenerative diseases.
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