Essential Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids as New Treatments for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Pp. 312-333 (22)
Inflammation plays an important role in the onset and progress of
neurodegenerative diseases. Inflammation may trigger or exacerbate neuronal apoptosis and
death through glucocorticoid secretion, oxidative stress, and changes in neurotransmission.
Therefore, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs might diminish the cumulative effects of
inflammation in the brain. Indeed, some epidemiological studies showed that sustained use
of anti-inflammatory drugs or natural products may prevent or slow down the progression of
Among several new products, omega (n)-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory and
neuroprotective effects with few side effects. Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA),
including n-3 and 6 fatty acids can change brain and immune functions. The effects may be
via modulating 1) membrane structure and fluidity; 2) the interaction between genes and
proteins; 3) channel and receptor functions; 4) neurotransmitter release and long-term
potentiation process, 5) the function of glial cells in the brain and 6) cellular and humoral
inflammatory responses and more. Many studies have demonstrated that n-3 and n-6 fatty
acids cooperate and compete with each other to maintain the homeostasis. Over intake of n-6
fatty acids may induce inflammation and neurodegeneration, while n-3 fatty acids have been
tried clinically and experimentally to treat patients with neurodegenerative diseases or to
explore therapeutic mechanisms in animal models.
More interestingly, the combination of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids at different ratios showed the
enhancement of anti-inflammation, neuroprotection or gene and protein modulation.
This chapter will (1) review the new findings from studies in relationship between
inflammation and neurodegenerative disease, mainly Alzheimer’s disease (AD); (2)
introduce the important role of PUFA in the brain and the immune system; (3) discuss
clinical trials of n-3 fatty acids used for treatments of neurodegeneration and (4)
explore/summarize possible mechanisms by which PUFA can be used for treatment of
neurodegeneration. In addition, the limitation of current studies and further research
directions will be raised.
Inflammation, neurodegeneration, microglia, astrocytes, cytokines,
neurotransmitters, memory deficit, apoptosis, macrophages, T-lymphocytes.
Research Institute for Marine Nutrition and Drugs, Guangdong Ocean University, China.