Astaxanthin (ATX) is the carotenoid found in algae, fish and crustaceans which accounts for their color. It is necessary for development and survival of salmonids and crustaceans. ATX in algae protects them from the damage of ultraviolet (UV) light. ATX has been shown to alter liver function in fish.
ATX reduces the effects of loss of oxygen on heart muscle in rats. ATX is more protective of human skin cells against UV light than is beta-carotene. One recent study shows that ATX protects retinal cells. ATX is similar in structure to beta-carotene and lutein. ATX has antioxidant effects in mammalian cells 5-15 times as strong as beta-carotene and lutein.
The present study was done to see if ATX protects animals from ischemic brain injury. Injections of ATX were given to rats before the middle cerebral artery of the brain was blocked for 60 minutes. Rats pretreated with ATX were more physically active after 2 days of recovery than were rats which did not receive ATX. Assays of brain tissue from the animals were compared for free radical damage, apoptosis, aconitase activity, glutamate release, lipid peroxidation, etc. Aconitase activity indicated less brain damage in pre-treated animals. ATX reduced markers of lipid oxidation.
Extensive testing of the animals’ motor activity was done after the above treatments. The animals which received pretreatment with ATX had significant improvement of post-treatment activity as compared to untreated animals. Treated animals had reduced amounts of damaged brain on microscopic slides compared to placebo animals.
CONCLUSION: This study shows evidence that astaxanthin (ATX) reduces brain injury, improves recovery from the loss of circulation and may be beneficial to patients with repeated attacks of cerebral ischemia. Rats pretreated with ATX showed fewer signs of brain damage and more rapid and more complete motor recovery.
NOTE: Ischemic brain damage is the result of injury to brain tissue by loss of circulation and loss of oxygen to the brain. Read about the effects of astaxanthin on oxidation of lipids or fats.
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