Animal Study Suggests That Vitamin E May Protect Against Neurological Disorder

Source: VERIS Research Information Service

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BACKGROUND: Clinical research has suggested that supplemental vitamin E can reduce symptoms of some types of hereditary ataxia, inherited neurological disorders that result in uncontrollable physical movements and difficulty walking. Ataxia may be influenced by oxidative (free radical) stress or a genetic defect that makes some nerve or brain cells more susceptible to oxidative stress.

RESEARCH: Researchers raised a group of mutant mice without the gene needed to maintain normal vitamin E levels in the body. As a consequence, the mice had no detectable vitamin E in their brains They developed ataxia symptoms after one year of age, which became progressively worse with age. However, some of the mice were given supplemental vitamin E.

RESULTS: Mice that received vitamin E did not develop ataxia, even though their brain levels of the vitamin were only 10 to 20 percent of normal. This experiment showed that ataxia is the result of a "highly oxidized state" in the brain, and even small amounts of supplemental vitamin E can protect the brain from free radical stresses and prevent neurological symptoms of ataxia.

IMPLICATIONS: The researchers noted that supplemental vitamin E may provide a reasonable treatment for ataxia. In addition, scientists may be able to use mice of this type and antioxidants to investigate other neurodegenerative diseases.

Yokota T, Igarashi K, Uchihara T, et al. "Delayed-onset ataxia in mice lacking alpha-tocopherol transfer protein: model for neuronal degeneration caused by chronic oxidative stress," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2001;98:15185-15190.

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