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Movement disorders

Patients with spinocerebellar ataxia 38 benefit from DHA supplementation

Dietary supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for brain development and function — produces symptomatic improvements in patients with spinocerebellar ataxia 38 (SCA38), according to an open-label trial published in Annals of Neurology. SCA38 is caused by mutations in ELOVL5, which encodes an enzyme that is involved in DHA synthesis. Ten patients with SCA38, all of whom had already participated in a 16-week randomized controlled trial of DHA supplementation, took DHA capsules daily for a further 40 weeks. At the end of this period, the participants showed clinical improvements on two different ataxia rating scales, as well as amelioration of the cerebellar hypometabolism that is observed in individuals with SCA38.


  1. Manes, M. et al. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a beneficial replacement treatment for spinocerebellar ataxia 38 (SCA38). Ann. Neurol. (2017)

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Wood, H. Patients with spinocerebellar ataxia 38 benefit from DHA supplementation. Nat Rev Neurol 13, 707 (2017).

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