Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to life-changing neurological deficits, which reflect the fast-evolving secondary injury post-trauma. There is a need for acute protective interventions, and the aim of this study was to explore in an experimental TBI model the neuroprotective potential of a single bolus of a neuroactive omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), administered in a time window feasible for emergency services. Adult mice received a controlled cortical impact injury (CCI) and neurological impairment was assessed with the modified Neurological Severity Score (mNSS) up to 28 days post-injury. DHA (500 nmol/kg) or saline were injected intravenously at 30 min post-injury. The lipid mediator profile was assessed in the injured hemisphere at 3 h post-CCI. After completion of behavioral tests and lesion assessment using magnetic resonance imaging, over 7 days or 28 days post-TBI, the tissue was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. The single DHA bolus significantly reduced the injury-induced neurological deficit and increased pro-resolving mediators in the injured brain. DHA significantly reduced lesion size, the microglia and astrocytic reaction, and oxidation, and decreased the accumulation of beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP), indicating a reduced axonal injury at 7 days post-TBI. DHA reduced the neurofilament light levels in plasma at 28 days. Therefore, an acute single bolus of DHA post-TBI, in a time window relevant for acute emergency intervention, can induce a long-lasting and significant improvement in neurological outcome, and this is accompanied by a marked upregulation of neuroprotective mediators, including the DHA-derived resolvins and protectins.
Keywords: docosahexaenoic acid; functional improvement; lipid mediator profile; neuroprotection; traumatic brain injury.