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Increased dietary intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces pathological retinal angiogenesis

Connor KM, SanGiovanni JP, Lofqvist C, Aderman CM, Chen J, Higuchi A, Hong S, Pravda EA, Majchrzak S, Carper D, Hellstrom A, Kang JX, Chew EY, Salem N Jr, Serhan CN, Smith LEH (2007) Nature Medicine  13 868 - 873 

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Many sight-threatening diseases have two critical phases, vessel loss followed by hypoxia-driven destructive neovascularization. These diseases include retinopathy of prematurity and diabetic retinopathy, leading causes of blindness in childhood and middle age affecting over 4 million people in the United States.

We studied the influence of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on vascular loss, vascular regrowth after injury, and hypoxia-induced pathological neovascularization in a mouse model of oxygen-induced retinopathy. We show that increasing omega-3 PUFA tissue levels by dietary or genetic means decreased the avascular area of the retina by increasing vessel regrowth after injury, thereby reducing the hypoxic stimulus for neovascularization.

The bioactive omega-3-PUFA-derived mediators neuroprotectinD1, resolvinD1 and resolvinE1 also potently protected against neovascularization. The protective effect of omega-3 PUFAs and their bioactive metabolites was mediated, in part, through suppression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha. This inflammatory cytokine was found in a subset of microglia that was closely associated with retinal vessels.

These findings indicate that increasing the sources of omega-3 PUFA or their bioactive products reduces pathological angiogenesis. Western diets are often deficient in omega-3 PUFA, and premature infants lack the important transfer from the mother to the infant of omega-3 PUFA that normally occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy. Supplementing -3-PUFA intake may be of benefit in preventing retinopathy.