Heme Oxygenase-1 Mediates Neuroprotection Conferred by Argon in Combination with Hypothermia in Neonatal Hypoxia–Ischemia Brain Injury

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Hypoxic–ischemic encephalopathy is a major cause of mortality and disability in the newborn. The authors investigated the protective effects of argon combined with hypothermia on neonatal rat hypoxic–ischemic brain injury.


In in vitro studies, rat cortical neuronal cell cultures were challenged by oxygen and glucose deprivation for 90 min and exposed to 70% Ar or N2 with 5% CO2 balanced with O2, at 33°C for 2 h. Neuronal phospho-Akt, heme oxygenase-1 and phospho-glycogen synthase kinase-3β expression, and cell death were assessed. In in vivo studies, neonatal rats were subjected to unilateral common carotid artery ligation followed by hypoxia (8% O2 balanced with N2 and CO2) for 90 min. They were exposed to 70% Ar or N2 balanced with oxygen at 33°, 35°, and 37°C for 2 h. Brain injury was assessed at 24 h or 4 weeks after treatment.


In in vitro studies, argon–hypothermia treatment increased phospho-Akt and heme oxygenase-1 expression and significantly reduced the phospho-glycogen synthase kinase-3β Tyr-216 expression, cytochrome C release, and cell death in oxygen–glucose deprivation–exposed cortical neurons. In in vivo studies, argon–hypothermia treatment decreased hypoxia/ischemia-induced brain infarct size (n = 10) and both caspase-3 and nuclear factor-κB activation in the cortex and hippocampus. It also reduced hippocampal astrocyte activation and proliferation. Inhibition of phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway through LY294002 attenuated cerebral protection conferred by argon–hypothermia treatment (n = 8).


Argon combined with hypothermia provides neuroprotection against cerebral hypoxia–ischemia damage in neonatal rats, which could serve as a new therapeutic strategy against hypoxic–ischemic encephalopathy.

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