Omega-3 Hastens and Omega-6 Delays the Progression of Neuropathology in a Murine Model of Familial ALS

Edward F. Boumil1, #, Rishel Brenna Vohnoutka1, #, Yuguan Liu2, Sangmook Lee2, Thomas B Shea1, *
1 Laboratory for Neuroscience, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854, USA
2 Department of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854, USA

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© 2017 Boumil et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Laboratory for Neuroscience, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, 01854, USA, Tel: 978-934-2881; Fax: 978-934-3044; E-mail:

# These authors contributed equally to this research.



Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive disease of motor neurons that has no cure or effective treatment. Any approach that could sustain minor motor function during terminal stages would improve quality of life.


We examined the impact of omega-3 (Ω-3) and Ω-6, on motor neuron function in mice expressing mutant human superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD-1), which dominantly confers familial ALS and induces a similar sequence of motor neuron decline and eventual death when expressed in mice.


Mice received standard diets supplemented with equivalent amounts of Ω-3 and Ω-6 or a 10x increase in Ω-6 with no change in Ω-3 commencing at 4 weeks of age. Motor function and biochemical/histological parameters were assayed by standard methodologies.


Supplementation with equivalent Ω-3 and Ω-6 hastened motor neuron pathology and death, while 10x Ω-6 with no change in Ω-3 significantly delayed motor neuron pathology, including preservation of minor motor neuron function during the terminal stage.


In the absence of a cure or treatment, affected individuals may resort to popular nutritional supplements such as Ω-3 as a form of “self-medication”. However, our findings and those of other laboratories indicate that such an approach could be harmful. Our findings suggest that a critical balance of Ω-6 and Ω-3 may temporarily preserve motor neuron function during the terminal stages of ALS, which could provide a substantial improvement in quality of life for affected individuals and their caregivers.

Keywords: Omega-3, Omega-6, Neuropathology, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Motor neuron, Inflammation.