BEER-SHEVA, Israel, May 4 (UPI) -- Israeli scientists say they've isolated a microalgal strain that produces large amounts of a polyunsaturated fatty acid that may cut blood cholesterol levels.
The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers said the algal mutant might also reduce blood pressure and chronic inflammation, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks.
The research team led by Professor Zvi HaCohen said it is studying an algal mutant that is capable of accumulating up to 15 percent (of dry weight) of a polyunsaturated fatty acid called dihomo-γ-linolenic acid. The new strain, IKG-1, is a freshwater microalga the researchers believe is the only known plant source capable of producing such significant amounts of the polyunsaturated fatty acid.
"Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are necessary as components of brain cell membranes and have various nutritional uses," HaCohen said. "DGLA is one of these, but appears in nature only as an intermediate in the biosynthesis of other compounds and does not accumulate to any appreciable concentration. There is no natural source for DGLA and although its beneficial effects are well known, very few clinical studies have been conducted."
Ora Horovitz, the university's vice president of business development, said the findings could affect treatment of life-threatening diseases, such as chronic inflammations, multiple sclerosis and arteriosclerosis.