From Inflammation to Resolution: A Deep Dive into the World of Resolvins, Protectins, and Maresins Optimization
Do you want to further calm your overactive immune system? There is a new group of lipid compounds that may be a very helpful adjunct to your self-care routine, particularly if you have multiple sclerosis or another autoimmune problem with neurological and psychological symptoms.
I am excited that we are learning more about the signaling molecules that are key for turning down the level of inflammation in the body and brain. I want you to know how these molecules work in our cells and tissues.
Resolvins, protectins, and maresins are part of the specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) that help turn off or resolve inflammation.1 We are beginning to recognize how SPMs can improve health in those with many chronic diseases, including psoriasis,2 multiple sclerosis,3,4 rheumatoid arthritis,3,4 systemic lupus,3,4 atherosclerosis,5 and cancer6.
Uncontrolled inflammation is a key factor in the development of many chronic diseases, including autoimmune disease, cancer, post-acute sequelae of acute covid 19 infection, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and periodontal disease.1 Scientists have identified specific molecules that our immune cells create to resolve inflammation and get our immune cells back to their normal state. If you have a chronic disease, your immune system is generating inflammation, not resolving it. There are not enough SPMs to reduce or resolve ongoing inflammation. This lack of SPMs contributes to the progressive nature of many chronic diseases.
We all need our immune system to repair injuries that occur in life. A healthy immune system should take care of our injuries and be able to restore function and equilibrium. After an acute injury, inflammation helps us heal. Say you trip and fall, cutting your hand and breaking the scaphoid, one of the bones in your wrist. Treatment would include cleaning the wound in your hand, a few stitches to bring the skin edges together, and a cast for the wrist to hold the fractured scaphoid bone edges together for 6 to 8 weeks, depending on your age. Your innate immune cells are activated to “mop up” the damaged cells along the edge of the laceration and the edges of the bone fracture. Once the damaged cells have been dissolved by immune cells, the immune cells then supervise the fibroblasts to come in to grow the cells that will repair the skin and osteoblasts that will repair the bone. Once the repairs are complete and the function of the skin and bone around the wrist are back to normal, the immune system turns on the production of SPMs to turn off or resolve the inflammation.
But sometimes the immune system gets stuck in an active state and does not complete the repair process after acute injury. Instead, the immune cells continue to engage in “mop up work,” failing to activate SPMs and resolve inflammation. This is part of what drives persisting inflammation in the setting of many chronic disease states. There is emerging evidence that providing additional support to the resolution phase of the immune response can be helpful for those with neuroimmune or neurodegenerative disease states through modulation of microglia.7
We make SPMs from essential fatty acids in the omega-3 family. The food sources for omega-3 fatty acids are wild-caught fish and grass-finished meats. The vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids are incomplete; they need two additional carbons added to the molecule to make the acids our bodies need, and we are not very efficient at this step–only 5 to 7% of vegetarian omega-3’s we eat get converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the acids in wild fish and grass-finished meats our bodies can readily use.
We must further manipulate these molecules to make the signaling molecules that are the SPMs, that is the resolvins, protectins, and maresins. Adding SPMs to your self-care routine further supports your body’s ability to down-regulate an overactive immune system. For anyone with a chronic autoimmune condition, adding more SPMs is an excellent next step!
Chiang N, Serhan CN. Specialized pro-resolving mediator network: an update on production and actions. Essays Biochem. 2020;64(3):443-462.
Simard M, Morin S, Ridha Z, Pouliot R. Current knowledge of the implication of lipid mediators in psoriasis. Front Immunol. 2022;13:961107.
Cas MD, Roda G, Li F, Secundo F. Functional Lipids in Autoimmune Inflammatory Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(9).
Parolini C. Marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Efficacy on inflammatory-based disorders. Life Sci. 2020;263:118591.
Salazar J, Pirela D, Nava M, et al. Specialized Proresolving Lipid Mediators: A Potential Therapeutic Target for Atherosclerosis. Int J Mol Sci. 2022;23(6).
Fishbein A, Hammock BD, Serhan CN, Panigrahy D. Carcinogenesis: Failure of resolution of inflammation? Pharmacol Ther. 2021;218:107670.
Valente M, Dentoni M, Bellizzi F, Kuris F, Gigli GL. Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators in Neuroinflammation: Overview of Studies and Perspectives of Clinical Applications. Molecules. 2022;27(15).