The role of fatty acids in the regulation of cerebral vascular function and neuroprotection in ischemia

CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2013 May 1;12(3):316-24. doi: 10.2174/1871527311312030005.


Cerebral circulation is tightly regulated by vasoactive substances. There is a delicate balance among vasoconstriction and vasodilation factors. During ischemia/stroke, cerebral blood flow autoregulation may be compromised triggering hyperemia (early phase) or hypoperfusion (late phase or post-ischemia) deranging cerebral blood flow that can lead to subsequent neuronal cell death due to blood flow abnormalities. Traditional vasoactive mediators such as nitric oxide and calcitonin gene-related peptide have been well-documented to provide vasodilation and neuroprotection in the ischemic brain. An emerging field is the identification of fatty acids (polyunsaturated or saturated) that can lead to vasodilation possibly causing neuroprotection. This review investigates fatty acids such as palmitic acid methyl ester, α-linolenic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid as novel vasoactive substances that can modulate cerebral blood flow as well as offer neuroprotection after ischemia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / physiology
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / physiology
  • Carbon Monoxide / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism*
  • Vasodilation / physiology


  • Fatty Acids
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide