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Mercury is one of the heavy metals causing different adverse effects. It is termed as a mercury poisoning. Mercury is widespread and distributed throughout the environment. It causes a variety of metabolic disorders (mercury poisoning) mainly through the interaction with Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and binding to the thiol (-SH) group of cysteine residues present in several proteins such as Glutathione, and other natural antioxidant enzymes. The high level of reactive oxygen species formed is termed as oxidative stress, which affects some of the most metabolic processes like lipid peroxidation.
Heavy metal poisoning involves the oxidative damage of the tissues by causing an imbalance between the oxidant and antioxidant defense system of the body/tissue. Glutathione, Glutathione Reductase and NADPH are some of the natural antioxidants while reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide, Malondialdehyde, Hydrogen Peroxide, Superoxide radicals are some of the oxidants.
What is omega-3-fatty acid?
Omega-3-fatty acids are the polyunsaturated fatty acids that are commonly found in marine oils. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are some examples of omega-3-fatty acids. In recent years, it has been found that consumption of omega-3-fatty acids has beneficial effects on many health problems like cardiovascular, neuronal and gastrointestinal diseases. However, the present study carried out in mice reveals that omega-3-fatty acid consumption has a protective effect on mercury poisoning (mercury toxicity) in mice.
A team of researchers from the Department of Biochemistry, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Department of Pathology and Ataturk Health Service Vocational School, Kafkas University, Turkey has found that omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect against mercury poisoning.
To carry out the experiment, researchers took 28 male Swiss albino mice and divided into four groups (seven in each group). Mice of group 1 were injected with physiological saline solution (control), group 2 was injected with HgCl2. Similarly, mice of group 3 were injected with omega-3-fatty acid plus HgCl2 and group 4 were injected with omega-3-fatty acid only. All the injections were with specific doses.
What did they find is that in mice of group 2, there was increased level Malondialdehyde (MDA), Glutathione (GSH) and nitric oxide (NO) in the liver and kidney as compared to that of the mice of group 1 (control). In group 4 injected with omega-3-fatty acids only, there were very low levels of MDA and NO.
The levels of Total-Sialic Acid (TSA) were also found to be significantly higher in the liver, kidney and brain tissues of the mice of group 2 as compared to the control group. However, the level of glutathione (GSH) in the liver, brain, and blood of the mice of group 2 was significantly lower with no changes in the GSH level in the kidney.
However, in the liver, brain, and blood of the mice of group 3 injected with both HgCl2 and omega-3-fatty acid, there is a significant decrease in the levels of TSA, MDA and NO with an increased level of GSH as compared to that of the mice of group 2 (received HgCl2 only).
Increased level of Glutathione (GSH) and decreased levels of Total-Sialic Acid (TSA), Malondialdehyde (MDA) and NO in mice injected with omega-3-fatty acid clearly indicates the protective effect of omega-3-fatty acid treatment against lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress induced by mercury poisoning. Therefore, dietary supplementation of polyunsaturated fatty acids enriches in omega-3-fatty acids have been suggested to reduce the susceptibility of mercury-induced lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress.
Reference: Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
Article DOI: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2013.08.004