Author: University Health Network (Source: Eurekalert!)
In June 2017, research team at the Krembil Neuroscience Center in Toronto published a paper that suggests that seal oil may help promote nerve regeneration in patients with type 1 diabetes.
The study found that patients who received omega-3 supplements from seal oil twice a day for 12 months reported an increase in corneal nerve fiber length. The paper entitled "The Effect of Omega-3 Supplements on Type 1 Diabetic Neuropathy" was published in the June, 2017 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
"Nothing like this has been attempted in humans before," said neurologist Dr. Evan Lewis, one of the authors of the study, "Results from this trial are a very important step towards a clinical therapy for people with diabetic neuropathy."
Diabetic neuropathy is a neurological injury caused by diabetes. Symptoms vary from patient to patient, but may include stinging, numbness, loss of sensation, burning of hands and feet, persistent pain and difficulty walking. There are currently no therapies for patients to stop or reverse their effects.
"This study is the first to show that targeted nutritional invention can stop and reverse small fibre damage," said Dr. Vera Bril, MD, the principal investigator of the study and head of the Division of Neurology in the Department of Medicine at the Ellen Prosserman Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases at UHN. Other members of the research team included Dr. Bruce Perkins, who leads the Sinai Diabetes Center, and Dr. Thomas Wolever and Dr. Richard Bazinet in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.
The study involved 40 patients with a focus on corneal nerve fiber length. The cornea is located at the front of the eye and has the highest density of nerves in the body. These nerve damage or loss of corneal nerve fiber length are considered to be a biomarker of type 1 diabetes progression. The study did not measure vision recovery.
The researchers investigated the effects of omega-3 seal oil supplements on the nerve structure and found that the average corneal nerve fiber length increased by 29%, which is considered to be representative of small nerve fiber regeneration in other parts of the body.
"These findings suggest that use of this supplement may have the potential to have a regenerative effect," said Dr Lewis. "Our goal was to collect enough data to power a randomized clinical trial and we believe this study lays the groundwork for that to happen."
The next step for the research team will be to conduct a Phase III randomized controlled trial involving more participants.
Funding for this study was provided by the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Banting and Best Diabetes Center.
"The initial results of this research are very promising and Diabetes Canada looks forward to continued study on the impact of omega-3s on nerve regeneration," said Dr. Jan Hux, Chief Science Officer at Diabetes Canada.
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