- A study of zebrafish embryos shows that vitamin E deficiency disrupts the normal development of the brain, peripheral nervous system and certain organs.
Vitamin E is found naturally in fatty plant-based foods such as sunflower, hazelnut, canola or olive oils, and in certain oilseeds such as almonds. It is known for its antioxidant effects and role in protecting against cardiovascular disease.
However, according to a study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University (USA) with zebrafish embryos, vitamin E is completely present necessary for the brain and the nervous system develops without problems. These works, published in Scientific reports, shows that fish suffering from vitamin E deficiency have malformations of the brain and nervous system. “It’s absolutely amazing, the brain is really physically deformed by vitamin E deficiency,” said Maret Traber, a professor at Oregon State University and lead author of the study.
Neuronal crest abnormalities
Zebrafish are small freshwater species widely used in scientific research due to their striking similarity to humans at the molecular, genetic and cellular levels. Both species share 70% of their genes. On the other hand, the state of its embryo is particularly interesting, as it is a rapidly developing (5 days), transparent and easy to care for fish.
So scientists can easily see on this animal where the brain is formed and how vitamin E affects its development.
They were able to observe that the outline of the brain organ (“initial”) and the neural tube develop very quickly, form the nervous system and innervates all organs and structures of the body. Without vitamin E, zebrafish embryos show neural tube defects and brain abnormalities. Professor Traber explained that these malformations were similar to those seen in the neural tube in folic acid deficiency. “We now have images showing neural tube and brain abnormalities that vitamin E is present at the edges of the cells that make up the brain.she added.
These cells form the neural crest and participate in the formation of facial bones and cartilage, innervate the body, establishing the peripheral nervous system. They work “like stem cells” and it is “important for brain, spinal cord” and the development of other organs such as the heart and liver. “If you cause these cells to be vitamin E deficient, the entire formation of the embryo is disrupted. It’s not surprising that we’re witnessing the death of embryos if vitamin E is lacking.”
Find the causative genes
The researchers’ work is not finished. Their next goal is to determine which zebrafish genes are sensitive to vitamin E deficiency. “Now we are very close to being able to say exactly what is wrong when there is not enough vitamin E, but at the same time we are far from it because we have not found the genes involved. Based on what we have learned, embryos lacking vitamin E can survive for up to 24 hours. then it starts to die, at 6 hours there is no difference, at 12 hours you can already see the changes but they don’t kill the animals, and at 24 hours the changes are dramatic and will soon stop. leading to a tipping point of total disaster.”