Fish Oil and Protection of At-Risk Individuals

New research conducted at Michigan State University reports that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and omega-3 fatty acid may be effective in quelling a known trigger of lupus and other autoimmune diseases. DHA is produced by algae consumed and then stored by fatty, cold-water fish, and is present in widely available fish-oil supplements. The study on mice that were genetically predispositioned to lupus found that DHA blocked its activation following triggering by crystalline silica, a known environmental hazard already linked to human autoimmune disorder. The precise mechanism of action is unknown, but the study authors believe their findings may help to determine the amount of DHA needed to forestall the environmental triggering of the disease. The findings are published in PLOS ONE.

Study author Jack Harkema, PhD, University Distinguished Professor, Department of Pathobiology & Diagnostic Investigation, commented, “Ninety-six percent of the lung lesions were stopped with DHA after being triggered by the silica. I’ve never seen such a dramatic protective response in the lung before.” The presence of silica causes macrophages in the lung to deploy to consume the substance, but the subsequent death of these cells is interpreted by the immune system as a signal to over-respond, targeting other, heathy cells. The autoimmune disease can damage any part of the body, including skin, joints, and organs. DHA appears to alter this immune response and prevent the onset of lupus. “Our next step is to figure out exactly what’s happening,” Dr Harkema concluded. 

Read more about the discovery here.

The journal article may be read here.

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