Chronic pain is a major medical cause of disability around the world. And although recommendations of dietary fats are often made in management of diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular diseases, the role of dietary lipids in pain conditions is relatively unknown.
The paper, “Elevated dietary ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids induce reversible peripheral nerve dysfunction that exacerbates comorbid pain conditions,” was published on the June cover of Nature Metabolism.
It is the combined effort of seven current/former GSBS students (listed below). The paper took 5+ years in the making and has 135 panels of figures.
- Jacob Boyd, MD, PhD (MSTP and F30 awardee)
- Peter LoCoco, PhD (T32 COSTAR and F32 awardee – got his PhD here in pharmacology). Jacob and Peter are equal co-first authors
- Ashley Furr (current DDS, PhD and T32 COSTAR and F30 awardee)
- Meilinn Tram (current DDS, PhD and T32 COSTAR and F30 awardee)
- Dominic Arris (current PhD student and T32 COSTAR awardee)
In this paper, Dr. Boyd and colleagues used multiple methods in both mice and humans, to study the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in pain conditions. They found that a diet that resembles the typical western diet (high in omega-6 fats) served as a significant risk factor for both inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Importantly, reversal of this diet, especially by lowering omega-6 and increasing omega-3 lipids, greatly reduced these pain conditions. Moreover, the authors demonstrated that skin levels of omega-6 lipids in patients with Type II diabetic neuropathic pain was strongly associated with reported pain levels and the need for taking analgesic drugs.
In their editorial Western high-fat diet lead to painful neuropathy accompanying this paper, Aidan McGinnis and Ru-Rong Ji said “This comprehensive and elegant study from Boyd et al. may serve as a foundation for new clinical trials and ultimately provide new avenues for the clinical treatment of neuropathies.”
Dr. Ken Hargreaves, senior author of the paper, said “This groundbreaking study exemplifies team science at its best – multiple scientists and clinicians with complementary expertise working together to make lives better. This translational research project included several gifted young scientists of UT Health San Antonio and sets another example of the outstanding accomplishments of our university.”
“This paper is a high-profile contribution for a huge unmet translational need as there are no treatments altering the nature of this neurological disease,” said Dr. José E. Cavazos, M.D. Ph.D., professor of neurology, assistant dean & director of the South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program.
Read more in the UT Health San Antonio article, “Western high-fat diet can cause chronic pain, according to groundbreaking paper by UT Health San Antonio-led team.”