Metabolic Brain Disease

, 24:561 | Cite as

Membrane saturated fatty acids and disease progression in Multiple Sclerosis patients

  • G. M. Hon
  • M. S. Hassan
  • S. J. van Rensburg
  • S. Abel
  • R. T. Erasmus
  • T. MatshaEmail author
Original Paper


The risk of developing multiple sclerosis is associated with increased dietary intake of saturated fatty acids. We determined the fatty acid composition within the different phospholipid fractions of red blood and peripheral blood mononuclear cell membranes of 31 patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and 30 healthy control subjects using gas chromatography. Individual saturated fatty acids were correlated with the severity of neurological outcome as measured by the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale. Significant increases were found in multiple sclerosis peripheral blood mononuclear cell membrane sphingomyelin C14:0 and phosphatidylinositol C22:0. In the peripheral blood mononuclear cell membranes, C22:0 and C24:0 showed positive correlations, while C14:0, C16:0 and C20:0 showed inverse correlations with the Functional System Scores. In conclusion, this study is in accordance with previous studies that have shown an increase in shorter long-chain SATS in MS patients. In addition, this study also showed that higher C14:0 and C16:0 reflected better disease outcome as demonstrated by the inverse correlation with the EDSS and FSS. We have also characterized the specific SATS, that is, long-chain SATS that may increase the risk of developing MS.


Multiple sclerosis Saturated fatty acids Expanded disability status scale C-reactive protein 



We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the following: MS Society, Western Cape Branch, South Africa and sister Treska Botha for the recruitment of patients, Zakariya Mohammed for statistical analysis, Johanna van Wyk for technical support in the analysis of FAs, Dr Marius de Klerk for the measurement of the EDSS and FSS. This study was funded by a grant from the University Research Fund of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa.


  1. Antonovsky A, Leibowitz U, Smith HA, Medalie JM, Balogh M, Kats R, Halpern L, Alter M (1965) Epidemiologic study of multiple sclerosis in Israel. Arch Neurol 13:183–193PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Boggs JM, Moscarello MA (1980) A comparison of composition and fluidity of multiple sclerosis and normal myelin. Neurochem Res 5:319–336CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown KA (2001) Factors modifying the migration of lymphocytes across the blood-brain barrier. Int Immunopharmacol 1:2043–2062CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Brück W (2005) Clinical implications of neuropathological findings in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol 252:III/10–III/14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Butcher PJ (1986) Milk consumption and multiple sclerosis—an etiological hypothesis. Med Hypotheses 19:169–178CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cendrowski W, Wender M, Dominik W, Flejsierowicz Z, Owsianowski M, Popiel M (1969) Epidemiological study of multiple sclerosis in Western Poland. Eur Neurol 2:90–108CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cherayil GD (1984) Sialic acid and fatty acid concentrations in lymphocytes, red blood cells and plasma from patients with multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Sci 63:1–10CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Cooper RL (1997) Multiple sclerosis: an immune legacy? Med. Hypotheses 49:307–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cordo SM, Candurra NA, Damonte EB (1999) Myristic acid analogs are inhibitors of Junin virus replication. Microb Infect 1:609–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cunnane SC, Ho S-Y, Dore-Duffy P, Ells KR, Horrobin DF (1989) Essential fatty acid and lipid profiles in plasma and erythrocytes in patients with multiple sclerosis. Am J Clin Nutr 50:801–806PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Folch J, Lees M, Sloane-Stanley GH (1957) A simple method for the isolation and purification of total lipids from animal tissues. J Biol Chem 226:497–509PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. German JB, Dillard CJ (2004) Saturated fats: what dietary intake? Am J Clin Nutr 80:550–559PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Grand RJA (1989) Acylation of viral and eukaryotic proteins. Biochemistry 258:625–638Google Scholar
  14. Harbige LS, Sharief MK (2007) Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the pathogenesis and treatment of multiple sclerosis. Br J Nutr 98:S46–S53CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Holman RT, Johnson SB, Kokmen E (1989) Deficiencies of polyunsaturated fatty acids and replacement by nonessential fatty acids in plasma lipids in multiple sclerosis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 86:4720–4724CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Hon GM, Hassan MS, Van Rensburg SJ, Abel S, De Marais W, Van Jaarsveld P, Smuts CM, Henning F, Erasmus RT, Matsha T (2009a) Erythrocyte membrane fatty acids in patients with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler 15:759–762CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Hon G, Hassan M, Van Rensburg SJ, Abel S, Marais DW, Van Jaarsveld P, Smuts C, Henning F, Erasmus R, Matsha T (2009b) Immune cell membrane fatty acids and inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein, in patients with multiple sclerosis. Br J Nutr 19:1–7Google Scholar
  18. Hunter SF, Hafler DA (2000) Ubiquitous pathogens. Links between infection and autoimmunity in MS? Neurology 55:164–165PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kaushal V, Barnes LD (1986) Effect of zwitterionic buffers on measurement of small masses of protein with bicinchoninic acid. Anal Biochem 157:291–294CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Kurtzke JF (1983) Rating neurologic impairment in multiple sclerosis: an Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Neurology 33:1444–1452PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Narasimhan B, Mourva V, Dhake A (2006) Design, synthesis, antibacterial, and QSAR studies of myristic acid derivatives. Bioorg Med Chem Lett 16:3023–3029CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Navarro X, Segura R (1989) Red blood cell fatty acids in multiple sclerosis. Acta Neurol Scand 79:32–37CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Okubo K, Hamasaki N, Hara K, Kageura M (1991) Palmitoylation of cysteine 69 from the COOH-terminal of Band 3 protein in the human erythrocyte membrane. J Biol Chem 266:16420–16424PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Sands JA (1977) Inactivation and inhibition of replication of the enveloped bacteriophage φ6 by fatty acids. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 12:523–528PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Stinissen P, Raus J, Zhang J (1997) Autoimmune pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis: role of autoreactive T lymphocytes and new immunotherapeutic strategies. Crit Rev Immunol 17:33–75PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Van Jaarsveld PJ, Smuts CM, Tichelaar HY, Kruger M, Benadé AJS (2000) Effect of palm oil on plasma lipoprotein concentrations and plasma low-density lipoprotein composition in non-human primates. Int J Food Sci Nutr 51:S21–S30CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Van Meeteren ME, Teunissen CE, Dijkstra CD, Van Tol EA (2005) Antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids in multiple sclerosis. Eur J Clin Nutr 59:1347–61CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Warren SA, Warren KG, Greenhill S, Paterson M (1982) How multiple sclerosis is related to animal illness, stress and diabetes. Can Med Assoc J 126:377–385PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Westlund KB, Kurland LT (1953) Studies on multiple sclerosis in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and New Orleans. Louisiana Am J Hyg 57:397–407Google Scholar
  30. Zamaria N (2004) Alteration of polyunsaturated fatty acid status and metabolism in health and disease. Reprod Nutr Dev 44:273–82CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Zhang SM, Willett WC, Hernán MA, Olek MJ, Ascherio A (2000) Dietary fat in relation to risk of multiple sclerosis among two large cohorts of women. Am J Epidemiol 152:1056–64CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. M. Hon
    • 1
  • M. S. Hassan
    • 1
  • S. J. van Rensburg
    • 2
  • S. Abel
    • 3
  • R. T. Erasmus
    • 4
  • T. Matsha
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Bio-Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Wellness ScienceCape Peninsula University of TechnologyCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Division of Chemical PathologyNational Health Laboratory ServicesTygerbergSouth Africa
  3. 3.PROMEC Unit and NIRUSouth African Research CouncilTygerbergSouth Africa
  4. 4.Division of Chemical PathologyUniversity of StellenboschTygerbergSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations