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Article Nature (Nature 2004; 427: 504)

A study published in the Nature journal demonstrates, that the mice which have had their fat-1 gene modified are able to transform fatty acids omega-6 into omega - 3. The work suggests a new investigation line for the prevention of diverse illnesses. Also, one can try to alter this gene in the livestock in order to obtain a meat, rich in fatty acids omega-3, without given supplementary products to the animals.

The mammals cannot produce in a natural way omega-3 fatty acids, therefore they should acquire them by a diet or with the ingestion of supplements. The Team of Jing Kang from the Harvard University, in Boston, has demonstrated that a mouse, which carries the fat-1 gene of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans can duplicate the union of polyunsaturated fatty acids of the hydro-carbonic chain and transform them into omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The work published now in the Nature Journal, offers the opportunity to investigate the roll of the omega-3 fatty acids in the organism. The discovery also indicates that this technology can be adapted in order to enrich different animal products, such as meat, milk and eggs with omega-3 fatty acids.

The gene fat-1 of the C. elegans codifies the unsaturated enzyme of omega-3 fatty acids, converting the omega-6 into omega-3, which is absent in most of the mammals. The investigators transferred the gene fat-1 in the mice and afterwards they compared them with a group of mice without being altered. Both groups were given a rich diet in omega-6 acids and with deficiency of omega-3. The profiles results for fatty acids of the animals were almost similar.


The tissue of the mice without being altered contained polyunsaturated fatty acids with low quantity of omega-3, while the tissues of the gene fat-1 carriers presented high concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-3. The concentrations of the linoleic omega-6 and the arachidonic acids in the tissues of the transgenic mice were low, which was an indication that the omega-6 had been converted into omega3.

The work suggests a new strategy to produce food enriched with fatty acids omega-3 starting with the livestock as carriers of the unsaturated omega-3 trans-gene.

At the present, the animals in the farms are fed with fodder, derivated of fishmeal. The production of fatty acids omega-3 by the animals could become a cost-effective option which signifies a good option for the consumption of meat, rich in fatty acids omega-3.

The transgenic mice used in the study also offer a model to investigate the biological functions of the fatty acids omega-3 and establish the importance of the balance between the fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3 in the prevention and the treatment of illnesses.

The investigators believe, that a further study should be carried out on the specific effects of the omega-3 and omega-6 acids, in the different tissues and organs.

The genetically modified mice can be used as models transferring different illnesses to them in order to study the fatty acids omega-3 effects in the patho-genesis and the treatment.


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