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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. May 10, 1994; 91(10): 4427–4430.

Prevention of ischemia-induced ventricular fibrillation by omega 3 fatty acids.


A specially prepared dog model of myocardial infarction was used to test the efficacy of the long-chain polyunsaturated fish oil omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic (20:5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic (22:6 n-3) acids to prevent ischemia-induced malignant cardiac arrhythmias. The dogs had sustained a prior experimental myocardial infarction from ligation of the left anterior descending coronary artery, and a hydraulic cuff was implanted around the left circumflex artery at that operation. After recovery from that procedure the animals were tested during a treadmill exercise test. With compression of the left circumflex artery sensitive animals will predictably develop ventricular fibrillation (VF). In such prepared dogs an emulsion of fish oil fatty acids was infused i.v. over a 50- to 60-min period just before the exercise-plus-ischemia test, and the effect on development of VF was recorded. The infusion was 100 ml of a 10% (vol/vol) emulsion of a fish oil concentrate containing 70% omega 3 fatty acids with free eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid composing 33.9% and 25.0% of that total, respectively. Alternatively, some animals similarly received an emulsion containing 5 ml of the free fatty acid concentrate plus 5 ml of a triacylglyerol concentrate containing 65% omega 3 fatty acids with eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid composing 34.0% and 23.6% of that total, respectively. In seven of eight animals the infusion of the fish oil emulsion completely prevented the acute occurrence of VF in the susceptible animals (P < 0.005). In five of five of these animals the subsequent exercise-plus-ischemia test after a similar infusion of an emulsion in which soy bean oil replaced the fish oil fatty acid concentrates resulted in prompt development of VF. Possible mechanisms for this protective effect of omega 3 fatty acids against exercise and ischemia-induced malignant arrhythmias are considered.

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