Researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University have identified another essential function of vitamin E—helping to repair tears in the plasma membranes of cells. These tears occur as part of everyday wear-and-tear as well as through more strenuous physical activities.
When the researchers simulated the damaging effects of exercise by using hydrogen peroxide to produce free radicals, they found that tears in skeletal muscle cells would not heal without the presence of vitamin E. Without repair of muscle cells, muscles eventually waste away and die.
Vitamin E appears to aid repair in several ways, say study authors. As an antioxidant, it helps stop free-radicals that impede repair. Because it's lipid-soluble, vitamin E can actually insert itself into the membrane to prevent free radicals from attacking. It also can help keep phospholipids, a key membrane component, compliant so they can better repair after a tear.
Their research may have implications for a variety of muscle conditions in which inadequate plasma membrane repair is involved.
In previous studies using animal models, researchers found that soaking cells in a membrane-stressing solution for eight to 12 weeks, caused a repair defect. Alpha tocopherol, the most biologically active form of vitamin E significantly reversed membrane repair deficits and increased cell survival after tearing cells in culture.
Other Vitamin E Benefits
In addition to its activities as an antioxidant, vitamin E is involved in immune function, cell signaling, regulation of gene expression, and other metabolic processes. It also inhibits the activity of an enzyme involved in cell proliferation and differentiation. Vitamin E-rich cells lining the interior surface of blood vessels are better able to resist blood-cell components adhering to this surface. Vitamin E also facilitates normal vasodilatation and supports healthy platelet aggregation.
Linus Pauling Institute
Office of Dietary Supplements