Scientists have shown that vitamin E plays an important role in the formation of the brain and nervous system in embryos in the early stages of its development.
To reach this conclusion, biologists at Oregon State University conducted experiments with Zebrafish also known as Danio rerio.
“This is totally amazing – the brain is absolutely physically distorted by not having enough vitamin E,” says Maret Traber, a professor in the Oregon State University (OSU) College of Public Health and Human Sciences, who is leading the research.
The Danios rerios are small freshwater fish that scientists widely used as a model to study the development and genetics of vertebrates. They have striking similarities to humans on a molecular, genetic, and cellular level. Also, they develop extremely quickly. In just five days, these creatures transform from a fertilized egg to an independent specimen.
Vitamin E, discovered in 1922, is a mixture of natural compounds of tocopherols and tocotrienols. From the beginning, it was clear that it is extremely important for the development of the embryo because rats deprived of this vitamin did not fertilize or could not have a fetus.
Later it was learned that the entire mixture of substances that make up vitamin E, for the normal development of the fetus only alpha-tocopherol is needed, which is found in high levels in olive oil, olives, sunflower seeds, walnuts and avocados.
From the nervous system to all organs
“Why does an embryo need vitamin E? We’ve been chasing that for a long time,” says Traber, who has studied vitamin E for 30 years.
Using the latest imaging techniques, the authors of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports looked at the effects of vitamin E on the brain. In its absence, the zebrafish embryos did not properly develop the neural tube and brain, which are responsible for the formation of the nervous system as a whole and for supplying nerve cells to all organs and structures of the body.
“Acting as stem cells, the crest cells are important for the brain and spinal cord and also go on to be the cells of about 10 different organ systems including the heart and liver,” the scientist highlights.
“By having those cells get into trouble with vitamin E deficiency, basically the entire embryo formation is dysregulated. It is no wonder we see embryo death with vitamin E deficiency,” she added.
Scientists note that defects appear even at the stage of formation of the neural crest, whose cells control the creation of bones and facial cartilage.
The results of the study help to clearly explain why women with low levels of vitamin E in plasma have an increased risk of miscarriage, their authors say. In addition, they explain why it is so important for pregnant women to regularly receive the necessary dose of vitamin E with food or in the form of medicinal supplements.
The study results help clearly explain why women with low plasma vitamin E levels are at increased risk of miscarriage, the authors say. In addition, they explain why it is so important that pregnant women receive the necessary dose of vitamin E regularly with food or in the form of medicinal supplements.