Research led by Nicolas Bazan, Boyd Professor and Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, and Ludmila Belayev, MD, LSU Health New Orleans Professor of Neuroscience, Neurology and Neurosurgery, has unlocked a key fundamental mechanism in the communication between brain cells when confronted with stroke. They report that DHA not only protected neuronal cells and promoted their survival, but also helped maintain their integrity and stability. The discovery provides potential new clinical targets and specific molecules for the treatment of ischemic stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Their findings are published online in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics.
Brain cells talk to one another. This synchronized cell-to-cell crosstalk regulates neuroinflammation and the immune system, which are activated in the brain at the onset of stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other diseases. The researchers found that in the model of stroke, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) affects the levels of two proteins crucial to communication between brain cells — mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) and triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-2 (TREM2). They discovered that treatment with DHA reduced the size of the damaged brain area, initiated repair mechanisms and greatly improved neurological and behavioral recovery. These findings provide a major conceptual advance of broad relevance for neuronal cell survival, brain function and, particularly, stroke and neurodegenerative diseases.