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Chronic oral or intraarticular administration of docosahexaenoic acid reduces nociception and knee edema and improves functional outcomes in a mouse model of Complete Freund’s Adjuvant–induced knee arthritis

Ana M Torres-Guzman1, Carlos E Morado-Urbina1, Perla A Alvarado-Vazquez1, Rosa I Acosta-Gonzalez1, Aracely E Chávez-Piña2, Rosa M Montiel-Ruiz1 and Juan M Jimenez-Andrade1*

Author Affiliations

1 Unidad Académica Multidisciplinaria Reynosa Aztlán, Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, Calle 16 y Lago de Chapala, Col Aztlán, CP 88740 Reynosa, Tamaulipas, México

2 Laboratorio de Farmacología, Programa Institucional de Biomedicina Molecular, Escuela Nacional de Medicina y Homeopatía del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, México, DF, México

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2014, 16:R64  doi:10.1186/ar4502

Published: 10 March 2014



Clinical and preclinical studies have shown that supplementation with ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3 PUFAs) reduce joint destruction and inflammation present in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the effects of individual ω-3 PUFAs on chronic arthritic pain have not been evaluated to date. Thus, our aim in this study was to examine whether purified docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, an ω-3 PUFA) reduces spontaneous pain-related behavior and knee edema and improves functional outcomes in a mouse model of knee arthritis.


Unilateral arthritis was induced by multiple injections of Complete Freund’s Adjuvant (CFA) into the right knee joints of male ICR adult mice. Mice that received CFA injections were then chronically treated from day 15 until day 25 post–initial CFA injection with oral DHA (10, 30 and 100 mg/kg daily) or intraarticular DHA (25 and 50 μg/joint twice weekly). Spontaneous flinching of the injected extremity (considered as spontaneous pain-related behavior), vertical rearing and horizontal exploratory activity (considered as functional outcomes) and knee edema were assessed. To determine whether an endogenous opioid mechanism was involved in the therapeutic effect of DHA, naloxone (NLX, an opioid receptor antagonist, 3 mg/kg subcutaneously) was administered in arthritic mice chronically treated with DHA (30 mg/kg by mouth) at day 25 post–CFA injection.


The intraarticular CFA injections resulted in increasing spontaneous flinching and knee edema of the ipsilateral extremity as well as worsening functional outcomes as time progressed. Chronic administration of DHA, given either orally or intraarticularly, significantly improved horizontal exploratory activity and reduced flinching behavior and knee edema in a dose-dependent manner. Administration of NLX did not reverse the antinociceptive effect of DHA.


To the best of our knowledge, this report is the first to demonstrate DHA’s antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects as individual ω-3 PUFAs following sustained systemic and intraarticular administration in a mouse model of CFA-induced knee arthritis. The results suggest that DHA treatment may offer a new therapeutic approach to alleviate inflammation as well as a beneficial effect on pain-related functional disabilities in RA patients.