Liraglutide is neurotrophic and neuroprotective in neuronal cultures and mitigates mild traumatic brain injury in mice

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a brain dysfunction for which there is no present effective treatment, is often caused by a concussive impact to the head and affects an estimated 1.7 million Americans annually. Our laboratory previously demonstrated that exendin-4, a long-lasting glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonist, has neuroprotective effects in cellular and animal models of TBI. Here, we demonstrate neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects of a different GLP-1R agonist, liraglutide, in neuronal cultures and a mouse model of mild TBI (mTBI). Liraglutide promoted dose-dependent proliferation in SH-SY5Y cells and in a GLP-1R over-expressing cell line at reduced concentrations. Pre-treatment with liraglutide rescued neuronal cells from oxidative stress- and glutamate excitotoxicity-induced cell death. Liraglutide produced neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects similar to those of exendin-4 in vitro. The cAMP/PKA/pCREB pathway appears to play an important role in this neuroprotective activity of liraglutide. Furthermore, our findings in cell culture were well-translated in a weight drop mTBI mouse model. Post-treatment with a clinically relevant dose of liraglutide for 7 days in mice ameliorated memory impairments caused by mTBI when evaluated 7 and 30 days post trauma. These data cross-validate former studies of exendin-4 and suggest that liraglutide holds therapeutic potential for the treatment of mTBI.

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