PITTSBURGH, May 2 Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine went on a molecular fishing trip and netted a catch of new mediators that not only can explain how omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, but also hint at novel treatments for a host of diseases linked to inflammatory processes. Their findings were published today in the online version of Nature Chemical Biology.
There is strong evidence that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as some fish, plant-derived oils and nuts, or taking omega-3s as a dietary supplement reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of illness and death from cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases, said Bruce A. Freeman, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, Pitt School of Medicine, and one of the study's senior authors.
"What has been a provocative question for people familiar with these impressive clinical actions is how omega-3 fatty acids actually induce such beneficial pharmacological effects," he said. "This study has given us fresh and revealing perspective into that process."
In this study, also led by Pitt assistant professor Francisco J. Schopfer, Ph.D., the researchers examined metabolic byproducts of omega-3 fatty acids that are produced by activated macrophages, a type of immune cell that is always present in inflamed tissue, and discovered previously unknown biochemical mediators of inflammation.
Using a small molecule called beta-mercaptoethanol (BME) as a reactive bait, Chiara Cipollina, Ph.D., one of the study's lead authors and a post-doctoral student from Palermo, Italy's Ri.MED Foundation, "hooked" several derivatives of omega-3 fatty acids that were produced by immune cells. These derivatives were chemically modified to become electrophilic fatty acid oxidation products (EFOX), meaning they are attracted to electrons and therefore react with critical molecular targets in many differ
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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences