Researchers have discovered a new type of molecules in the brain that synchronize cell-to-cell communication and neuroinflammation/immune activity in response to injury or diseases. The researchers found that a class of molecules elovanoids not only protected neuronal cells and promoted their survival, but helped maintain their integrity and stability. Elovanoids (ELVs), which are bioactive chemical messengers made from omega-3, are released on demand when cells are damaged or stressed.
The research was led by Nicolas Bazan, MD, PhD, Boyd Professor and Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at LSU Health New Orleans and the findings published in the journal Science Advances.
“Although we knew about messengers from omega-3 fatty acids such as neuroprotectin D1 (22 carbons) before, the novelty of the present discovery is that elovanoids are made of 32 to 34 carbon atoms in length,” said Nicolas Bazan. “We expect that these structures will profoundly increase our understanding of cellular cross talk to sustain neuronal circuitry and particularly to restore cell equilibrium after pathological insults.”
The findings represent a breakthrough in the understanding of how the complexity and resiliency of the brain are sustained when confronted with traumas such as stroke, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s and neuroprotection signaling needs to be activated. The key is to consider how neurons communicate among themselves. These novel molecules participate in communicating messages to overall synaptic organization to ensure an accurate flow of information through neuronal circuits.
“We know how neurons make synaptic connections with other neurons, however these connections have to be malleable to change strength appropriately. Elovanoids might play a central role as synaptic organizers, especially important in conditions resulting from synaptic dysfunction such as autism or amyotropic lateral sclerosis, for which we have no therapeutic answers.”
While the occurrence of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids has been well documented, what has not been known is their significance and potential to be converted into biochemical triggers to resolve injury, inflammation and other threats to neuronal communication and cell survival.
The researchers discovered the structure and characteristics of two elovanoids – ELV-N32 and ELV-N34 – in the brain. They found that elovanoids were activated when cells underwent either oxygen/glucose deprivation or excitotoxicity – early events associated with stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury and other neurodegenerative diseases.
They determined the concentrations and therapeutic windows at which elovanoids conferred neuroprotection. The team found that elovanoids overcame the damaging effects and toxicity of these early events. In the stroke model, elovanoids reduced the size of the damaged brain area, initiated repair mechanisms and improved neurological/behavioral recovery.
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