Hypoxia-ischemia damages selected regions of the immature brain at different ages. Prior to 32 weeks gestation the periventricular white matter is selectively vulnerable but in the last trimester the basal ganglia become especially vulnerable to injury. Hypoxia-ischemia causes injury by activating a series of biochemical events that unfolds over a period of hours to days following the initial insult and we are investigating the ways in which age modifies these events. The cascade includes release of glutamate, overstimulation of excitatory amino acid receptors and raised intracellular levels of calcium. Clinically this series of events is manifested by hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a syndrome that includes coma, seizures, a burst suppression EEG, respiratory depression and severe hypotonia. Clinical studies have established a relationship between the severity of neonatal encephalopathy and later manifestations of brain damage or cerebral palsy. Potential neuroprotective therapies need to be effective when given after the insult but the 'therapeutic time window' for most N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate antagonists is limited after injury. Using a model of hypoxic-ischemic injury and neonatal rats and hypothermic-circulatory arrest in dogs, we found that immunohistochemical staining for neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) is markedly increased from 6 to 24 h after the insult in the basal ganglia and cortex. The induction of nNOS preceded the time of maximal neuronal necrosis and during the time when many apoptotic nuclei were appearing. We have also found that a brief period of 2 h of mild hypothermia (32°C) following hypoxia-ischemia in neonatal rats delayed neuronal necrosis by more than a week. We are determining whether this delay is related to a change in nNOS activation. Induction of nNOS in the post-insult period may contribute to expression of injury and signs of encephalopathy following a hypoxic-ischemic insult.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Clinical Neurology