A team of academic researchers has pinpointed how vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the immune system's ability to clear the brain of amyloid plaques, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.
In a small pilot study published in the 5 February issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the scientists identified key genes and signalling networks regulated by vitamin D3 and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that may help control inflammation and improve plaque clearance.
Previous laboratory work by the team helped clarify key mechanisms involved in helping vitamin D3 clear amyloid-beta, the abnormal protein found in the plaque. The new study extends the previous findings with vitamin D3 and highlights the role of omega-3 DHA.
"Our new study sheds further light on a possible role for nutritional substances such as vitamin D3 and omega-3 in boosting immunity to help fight Alzheimer's," said study author Dr Milan Fiala, a researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
For the study, scientists drew blood samples from both Alzheimer's patients and healthy controls, then isolated critical immune cells called macrophages from the blood. Macrophages are responsible for gobbling up amyloid-beta and other waste products in the brain and body.
The team incubated the immune cells overnight with amyloid-beta. They added either an active form of vitamin D3 called 1alpha,25–dihydroxyvitamin D3 or an active form of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA called resolvin D1 to some of the cells to gauge the effect they had on inflammation and amyloid-beta absorption.