Early low-anticoagulant desulfated heparin after traumatic brain injury: Reduced brain edema and leukocyte mobilization is associated with improved watermaze learning ability weeks after injury

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Unfractionated heparin administered immediately after traumatic brain injury (TBI) reduces brain leukocyte (LEU) accumulation, and enhances early cognitive recovery, but may increase bleeding after injury. It is unknown how non-anticoagulant heparins, such as 2,3-O desulfated heparin (ODSH), impact post-TBI cerebral inflammation and long-term recovery. We hypothesized that ODSH after TBI reduces LEU-mediated brain inflammation and improves long-term neurologic recovery.


CD1 male mice (n = 66) underwent either TBI (controlled cortical impact [CCI]) or sham craniotomy. 2,3-O desulfated heparin (25 mg/kg [25ODSH] or 50 mg/kg [50ODSH]) or saline was administered for 48 hours after TBI in 46 animals. At 48 hours, intravital microscopy visualized rolling LEUs and fluorescent albumin leakage in the pial circulation, and the Garcia Neurologic Test assessed neurologic function. Brain edema (wet/dry ratio) was evaluated post mortem. In a separate group of animals (n = 20), learning/memory ability (% time swimming in the Probe platform quadrant) was assessed by the Morris Water Maze 17 days after TBI. Analysis of variance with Bonferroni correction determined significance (p < 0.05).


Compared with CCI (LEU rolling: 32.3 ± 13.7 LEUs/100 μm per minute, cerebrovascular albumin leakage: 57.4 ± 5.6%), both ODSH doses reduced post-TBI pial LEU rolling (25ODSH: 18.5 ± 9.2 LEUs/100 μm per minute, p = 0.036; 50ODSH: 7.8 ± 3.9 LEUs/100 μm per minute, p < 0.001) and cerebrovascular albumin leakage (25ODSH: 37.9 ± 11.7%, p = 0.001, 50ODSH: 32.3 ± 8.7%, p < 0.001). 50ODSH also reduced injured cerebral hemisphere edema (77.7 ± 0.4%) vs. CCI (78.7 ± 0.4 %, p = 0.003). Compared with CCI, both ODSH doses improved Garcia Neurologic Test at 48 hours. Learning/memory ability (% time swimming in target quadrant) was lowest in CCI (5.9 ± 6.4%) and significantly improved in the 25ODSH group (27.5 ± 8.2%, p = 0.025).


2,3-O desulfated heparin after TBI reduces cerebral LEU recruitment, microvascular permeability and edema. 2,3-O desulfated heparin may also improve acute neurologic recovery leading to improved learning/memory ability weeks after injury.

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