A single dose of docosahexaenoic acid increases the functional recovery promoted by rehabilitation following cervical spinal cord injury in the rat.
J Neurotrauma. 2016 Nov 23. Epub 2016 Nov 23. PMID: 27881040
Task-specific rehabilitation has been shown to promote functional recovery after acute spinal cord injury (SCI). Recently, the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has been shown to promote neuroplasticity after SCI. Here, we investigated whether the combination of a single bolus of DHA with rehabilitation can enhance the effect of DHA or rehabilitation therapy in adult injured spinal cord. We found enhanced functional improvement with DHA in combination with rehabilitation compared to either treatment alone in a rat cervical lateral hemisection SCI model. This behavioral improvement correlated with a significant sprouting of uninjured corticospinal and serotonergic fibers. We also observed that the greatest increase in the synaptic vesicle protein, synaptophysin, and the synaptic active zone protein, Bassoon, occurred in animals that received both DHA and rehabilitation. In summary, the functional, anatomical and synaptic plasticity induced by task-specific rehabilitation can be further enhanced by DHA treatment. This study shows the potential beneficial effects of DHA combined with rehabilitation for the treatment of patients with SCI.