In a new research, scientists have unveiled that there are certain special fats present in the blood that are essential for growth and function of a human brain. The study found that fatty acids like omega-3 must be consumed explicitly by humans as well as animals because body cannot produce them, although it requires these essential fats for good development of the brain.
“This finding notifies the role of certain fats in our blood for growth of the brain. It tells us which type of fats are important for the body and how the brain absorbs them,” explained professor Andrew Crosby, from the University of Exeter.
For the study, a team of researchers from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore studied people from a rural Pakistani family that shared nearly similar DNA. Many members had same genetic mutation in specific protein. It was found that family members who inherited two copies of the gene mutation had developed microcephaly (small head size), progressive intellectual disability, limb stiffness and absence of speech.
While explaining researchers said that mutation in the protein Mfsd2a causes impaired brain development in the humans as it boasts a special fat called lysophosphatidylcholines (LPCs). LPCs are made of fatty acids like omega-3. “The findings show that mutations in this specific gene may cause impaired brain development in humans,” said co-lead Dr David Silver from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore.
The study authors also examined mutations in Mfsd2a protein in members of two families from Libya and Egypt and found that due to mutation Mfsd2a lost its ability to transport LPCs. Thus, brain absorbed lesser amount of LPCs as a result they faced severely reduced brain size and children died between one and six years of age.
“This pointed the role of the specific gene as the main transporter of omega fatty acids to the brain,” the authors concluded.
The research appeared in Nature Genetics journal.