A Swedish study has found a connection between fatty acid levels and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy found that low levels of arachidonic acid in the blood was linked to a higher risk of ROP in a study of 90 infants.
The researchers conclude that further work is needed to determine whether supplementing extremely preterm infants with the fatty acid would help to reduce their ROP risk.
Study author, Chatarina Lofqvist, highlighted the novel nature of the findings.
“Seeing such a strong connection between arachidonic acid levels and ROP is something that is entirely new,” she emphasised.
“What we believe and hope is that providing the children with arachidonic acid will raise the levels and reduce the amount of ROP to minimise the risk of children becoming blind,” Dr Lofqvist added.
The study involved investigating the levels of 20 different fatty acids in the blood of 90 babies born before 28 weeks at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg.
It is thought that arachidonic acid plays an important role in the formation of membranes.
The next steps for the research involve giving supplements containing the fatty acid to 210 children at neonatal units in three Swedish cities.
The research is published in JAMA Ophthalmology.