Transgenic mice: fat-1 mice convert n-6 to n-3 fatty acids.
Mammals cannot naturally produce omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids--beneficial nutrients found mainly in fish oil--from the more abundant omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids and so they must rely on a dietary supply. Here we show that mice engineered to carry a fat-1 gene from the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans can add a double bond into an unsaturated fatty-acid hydrocarbon chain and convert n-6 to n-3 fatty acids. This results in an abundance of n-3 and a reduction in n-6 fatty acids in the organs and tissues of these mice, in the absence of dietary n-3. As well as presenting an opportunity to investigate the roles played by n-3 fatty acids in the body, our discovery indicates that this technology might be adapted to enrich n-3 fatty acids in animal products such as meat, milk and eggs.