Delayed Neurovascular Dysfunction Is Alleviated by Hydrogen in Asphyxiated Newborn Pigs

Background: The neurovascular unit encompasses the functional interactions of cerebrovascular and brain parenchymal cells necessary for the metabolic homeostasis of neurons. Previous studies indicated marked but only transient (1-4 h) reactive oxygen species-dependent neurovascular dysfunction in newborn pigs after severe hypoxic/ischemic (H/I) stress contributing to the neuronal injury after birth asphyxia. Objectives: Our major purpose was to determine if neurovascular dysfunction would also occur later, at 24 h after a milder H/I stress. We also tested if the putative hydroxyl radical scavenger hydrogen (H2) exerted neurovascular protection. Methods: Anesthetized, ventilated piglets were assigned to three groups of 9 animals: time control, asphyxia/reventilation with air, and asphyxia/reventilation with air +2.1% H2 for 4 h. Asphyxia was induced by suspending ventilation for 8 min. Cerebrovascular reactivity (CR) of pial arterioles was determined using closed cranial window/intravital microscopy 24 h after asphyxia to the endothelium-dependent cerebrovascular stimulus hypercapnia, the neuronal function-dependent stimulus N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), norepinephrine, and sodium nitroprusside. The brains were subjected to histopathology. Results: Hemodynamic parameters, blood gases, and core temperature did not differ significantly among the experimental groups. In the early reventilation period, the recovery of electroencephalographic activity was significantly better in H2-treated animals. Asphyxia/reventilation severely attenuated CR to hypercapnia and NMDA; however, reactivity to norepinephrine and sodium nitroprusside were unaltered. H2 fully or partially preserved CR to hypercapnia or NMDA, respectively. Histopathology revealed modest neuroprotection afforded by H2. Conclusions: Severe stimulus-selective delayed neurovascular dysfunction develops and persists even after mild H/I stress. H2 alleviates this delayed neurovascular dysfunction that can contribute to its neuroprotective effect.

Molecular hydrogen affords neuroprotection in a translational piglet model of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is the major consequence of perinatal asphyxia (PA) in term neonates. Although the newborn piglet is an accepted large animal PA/HIE model, there is no consensus on PA-induction methodology to produce clinically relevant HIE. We aimed to create and to characterize a novel PA model faithfully reproducing all features of asphyxiation including severe hypercapnia resulting in HIE, and to test whether H2 is neuroprotective in this model. Piglets were anaesthetised, artificially ventilated, and intensively monitored (electroencephalography, core temperature, O2 saturation, arterial blood pressure and blood gases). Asphyxia (20 min) was induced by ventilation with a hypoxic-hypercapnic (6%O2 – 20%CO2) gas mixture. Asphyxia-induced changes in the cortical microcirculation were assessed with laser-speckle contrast imaging and analysis. Asphyxia was followed by reventilation with air or air containing hydrogen (2.1%H2, 4 hours). After 24 hours survival, the brains were harvested for neuropathology. Our PA model was characterized by the development of severe hypoxia (pO2 = 27 ± 4 mmHg), and combined acidosis (pH = 6.76 ± 0.04; pCO2 = 114 ± 11 mmHg; lactate = 12.12 ± 0.83 mmol/L), however, cortical ischemia did not develop during the stress. Severely depressed electroencephalography (EEG), and marked neuronal injury indicated the development of HIE. H2 was neuroprotective shown both by the enhanced recovery of EEG and by the significant preservation of neurons in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, and the thalamus. H2 appeared to reduce oxidative stress shown by attenuation of 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine immunostaining. In summary, this new PA piglet model is able to induce moderate/severe HIE, and the efficacy of hydrogen post-treatment to preserve neuronal activity/function in this PA/HIE model suggests the feasibility of this safe and inexpensive approach in the treatment of asphyxiated babies.

Molecular hydrogen alleviates asphyxia-induced neuronal cyclooxygenase-2 expression in newborn pigs

Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) has an established role in the pathogenesis of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). In this study we sought to determine whether COX-2 was induced by asphyxia in newborn pigs, and whether neuronal COX-2 levels were affected by H2 treatment. Piglets were subjected to either 8 min of asphyxia or a more severe 20 min of asphyxia followed by H2 treatment (inhaling room air containing 2.1% H2 for 4 h). COX-2 immunohistochemistry was performed on brain samples from surviving piglets 24 h after asphyxia. The percentages of COX-2-immunopositive neurons were determined in cortical and subcortical areas. Only in piglets with more severe HIE, we observed significant, region-specific increases in neuronal COX-2 expression within the parietal and occipital cortices and in the CA3 hippocampal subfield. H2 treatment essentially prevented the increases in COX-2-immunopositive neurons. In the parietal cortex, the attenuation of COX-2 induction was associated with reduced 8′-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanozine immunoreactivity and retained microglial ramifcation index, which are markers of oxidative stress and neuroinfiammation, respectively. This study demonstrates for the first time that asphyxia elevates neuronal COX-2 expression in a piglet HIE model. Neuronal COX-2 induction may play region-specific roles in brain lesion progression during HIE development, and inhibition of this response may contribute to the antioxidant/anti-infiammatory neuroprotective effects of H2 treatment.

Inhaled H2 or CO2 Do Not Augment the Neuroprotective Effect of Therapeutic Hypothermia in a Severe Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy Piglet Model

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is still a major cause of neonatal death and disability as therapeutic hypothermia (TH) alone cannot afford sufficient neuroprotection. The present study investigated whether ventilation with molecular hydrogen (2.1% H2) or graded restoration of normocapnia with CO2 for 4 h after asphyxia would augment the neuroprotective effect of TH in a subacute (48 h) HIE piglet model. Piglets were randomized to untreated naïve, control-normothermia, asphyxia-normothermia (20-min 4%O2-20%CO2 ventilation; Tcore = 38.5 °C), asphyxia-hypothermia (A-HT, Tcore = 33.5 °C, 2-36 h post-asphyxia), A-HT + H2, or A-HT + CO2 treatment groups. Asphyxia elicited severe hypoxia (pO2 = 19 ± 5 mmHg) and mixed acidosis (pH = 6.79 ± 0.10). HIE development was confirmed by altered cerebral electrical activity and neuropathology. TH was significantly neuroprotective in the caudate nucleus but demonstrated virtually no such effect in the hippocampus. The mRNA levels of apoptosis-inducing factor and caspase-3 showed a ~10-fold increase in the A-HT group compared to naïve animals in the hippocampus but not in the caudate nucleus coinciding with the region-specific neuroprotective effect of TH. H2 or CO2 did not augment TH-induced neuroprotection in any brain areas; rather, CO2 even abolished the neuroprotective effect of TH in the caudate nucleus. In conclusion, the present findings do not support the use of these medical gases to supplement TH in HIE management.