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Natural vitamin E may be potent way to protect from stroke

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Tocotrienol and stroke

Natural vitamin E, called alpha-tocotrienol, may be more powerful than some drugs for protecting against brain damage after a stroke, suggests new research. The tocotrienol form of vitamin E is found by scientists to block an enzyme that releases fatty acids after a stroke, found in previous research. The natural form of the vitamin also stops the action of a gene that leads to brain cell death.

Tocotrienol "gifted" for protecting the brain

According to Chandan Sen, professor and vice chair for research in Ohio State’s Department of Surgery and senior author of the study:

"Here, a natural nutritional product is simultaneously acting on multiple targets to help prevent stroke-induced brain damage. That is a gifted molecule."

Sen says the study is the first to show how a vitamin “can alter microRNA biology to produce a favorable disease outcome”

The study specifically focused on tocotrienol form of vitamin E, also known as TCT.

The researchers first confirmed a protein, known as MRP1 - or multidrug resistance-associated protein 1 - is responsible for clearing a toxic compound that builds up in the brain after a stroke, leading to brain cell death.

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Next they determined TCT taken by mouth stimulates production of MRP1 in a small area of DNA, or microDNA that influences gene activity.

The researchers compared mice deficient in MRP1 to a normal group. Those with the protein deficiency had greater stroke damage from decreased blood flow to the brain. They also had a1.6-fold higher level of a toxin is called GSSG, or glutathione disulfide that causes brain cell death and is released after a stroke occurs.

Sen, who has been studying tocotrienol's effect on stroke in mice and lab cells for more than a decade says:

"The protein has the effect of dredging out the toxin. A significant finding in this work is the recognition that MRP1 is a protective factor against stroke. Thanks to tocotrienol, we were able to identify that path.”

Vitamin E occurs in 8 different isoforms - α-, ß-, γ- and δ-tocopherols and α-, ß-, γ- and δ-tocotrienols. TCT is plentiful in palm and other oils and is a powerful antioxidant. Tocotrienols are not plentiful in the American diet, but can be found in wheat germ, barley and some types of nuts and grains as well as supplements.

In addition to possibly protecting from stroke, a recent study also shows the form of vitamin E might help improve cardiovascular risk factors.

In the new study, researchers confirmed the natural form of vitamin E, known as alpha-tocotrienol or TCT could preserve brain cells after a stroke in animal and cell studies. Scientists hope to show TCT can protect humans from brain damage after stroke from blood clot to the brain or trauma.

Image credit: Morguefile