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AbstractThe innate immune system of the brain is mainly composed of microglial cells, which play a key role in the maintenance of synapses and the protection of neurons against noxious agents or lesions owing to their phagocytic activity. In the healthy brain, microglia are highly motile and strongly interact with neurons either by physical contact, induction of oxidative stress or through specific mediators, such as chemokines and cytokines. In response to inflammatory insult however, microglial cells get activated and produce inflammatory cytokines. The action of cytokines on specific receptors expressed in the brain triggers the development of sickness behavior and altered cognitive and emotional processes. The effects are acute and reversible as normal behavior is restored once the synthesis of inflammatory brain cytokines returns to baseline after a few hours. However, in pathological situations, these cytokines may reach toxic levels and have irreversible consequences such as neuronal death, as observed in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential nutrients and fundamental components of neuronal and glial cell membranes. They accumulate in the brain during the perinatal period in a dietary supply-dependent fashion. Their brain levels may diminish with age, but can be increased by diets enriched in n-3 PUFAs. Changes in the immune profile have been associated with n-3 PUFAs intake in humans and animal models. Therefore, the increasing exposure of the population to diets low in n-3 PUFAs could contribute to the deleterious effects of the chronic activation of microglia in the brain.
Nutrition and Aging – IOS Press
Published: May 21, 2015
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