Neuronal apoptosis can be prevented by the combined therapy with melatonin and hypothermia in a neonatal rat model of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy
Introduction. Birth hypoxia is a leading cause of perinatal mortality and neurological morbidity, resulting in central nervous system injury. Cerebral hypoxia and ischemia can produce a severe brain damage following a typical pattern, defined by selective vulnerability of the brain regions. The neonates are most prone to hypoxic-ischemic injuries due to the lack of efficient antioxidant defense. Neonatal hypoxia–ischemia (HI) in a 7-day-old rat HI model can produce cell death by apoptotic or necrotic mechanisms. The degree of apoptotic or necrotic mechanisms responsible for cell death in neonatal hypoxia–ischemia are not very clear as yet. The form of neuronal death may also depend on the severity of ischemic injury. Necrosis predominates in more severe cases, whereas apoptosis occurs in areas with milder ischemic injury. A human study demonstrated apoptotic and necrotic forms of cell death after hypoxic injury, whereas in some brains from stillbirths, only apoptotic figures were observed. The expression of activated caspase-3 reflects the role of apoptosis in neonatal hypoxic ischemic brain injury.
Objectives. The aim of this study was to evaluate the possible neuroprotective effect of melatonin and hypothermia in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy in newborn rats. Local damages induced by hypoxia and ischemia were assessed by evaluating the changes in terms of histology and apoptosis.
Methods. The experiment was conducted on 20 newborn Wistar rats premedicated for seven days with melatonin in a dose of 20 mg/kg/day. On the 7th postnatal day (P7), the newborn rats were exposed to ischemia (by clamping the right carotid artery) and hypobaric hypoxia (8% O2 for 90 minutes) and some groups to hypothermia.
Results. In this experimental model of neonatal encephalopathy, melatonin, in a dose of 20 mg/kg/day has neuroprotective effect by reducing the number of cells expressing apoptosis in Cornu Ammonis (CA) (Ammon’s Horn) CA1, CA2, CA3 and dentate gyrus of the hippocampus when combined with hypothermia.
Conclusion. The results of this study prove that melatonin is protective in ischemic-hypoxic brain injuries, but the protection is conditioned in most of the brain regions (excepting cerebral cortex) by conjugation with post-injury hypothermia treatment.