Protective effects of hydrogen-rich saline on necrotizing enterocolitis in neonatal rats

Purpose: The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that hydrogen-rich saline (HRS) might have protective effects on the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in a neonatal rat model. Methods: NEC was induced in male newborn Sprague–Dawley rats by formula feeding, exposure to asphyxia and cold stress. Sixty-four rat pups were divided randomly into four groups: C + NS (n = 11), C + H2 (n = 11), NEC + NS (n = 20), and NEC + H2 (n = 22). Rats in the former two groups were mother-fed. Pups received intra-peritoneal injection of HRS (10 ml/kg, 10 min before asphyxia stress twice a day) or the same dose of normal saline. Rats were monitored until 96 h after birth. Body weight, histological NEC score, survival time, malondialdehyde, antioxidant capacity, inflammatory mediators, and mucosal integrity were assessed. Results: HRS treatment maintained the body weight, reduced the incidence of NEC from 85% (17/20) to 54.5% (12/22), increased the survival rate from 25% (5/20) to 68.2% (15/22), and attenuated the severity of NEC. In addition, HRS inhibited the mRNA expression of pro-inflammatory mediators (inducible nitric oxide synthase, tumor necrosis factor-α, and interleukin-6), down-regulated lipid peroxidation, enhanced total antioxidant capacity, and prevented the increase of diamine oxidase in serum. However, no significant influence of HRS on the interleukin-10 mRNA expression was observed. Conclusions: HRS showed beneficial effects on neonatal rats with NEC via decreasing oxidative stress, increasing antioxidant capacity, suppressing inflammation, and preserving mucosal integrity.