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Masatoshi Yunoki, Shinsaku Nishio, Naoya Ukita, Matthew J. Anzivino, and Kevin S. Lee

Object. A brief period of hypothermia has recently been shown to induce delayed tolerance to ischemic brain injury. This form of tolerance is initiated several hours after hypothermic preconditioning (HPC) and persists for a few days. Hypothermia-induced tolerance could provide a means for limiting cellular injury during predictable periods of ischemia, such as those that occur during many surgical procedures. The purpose of this study was to characterize the parameters of HPC that regulate the induction of delayed tolerance.

Methods. The general design of the experiments was to perform HPC or a sham procedure on adult Sprague-Dawley rats. Twenty-four hours later, the animals were subjected to a transient period of ischemia induced by a 1-hour period of three-vessel occlusion. Infarct volume was assessed 24 hours postischemia. In the first series of experiments, the depth of global (that is, whole-body) HPC was set at 25.5, 28.5, or 31.5°C, and the duration of HPC was fixed at 20 minutes. In the second series of experiments, the duration of global HPC was set at 20, 60, 120, or 180 minutes, and the depth of HPC was set at 33 or 34.5°C. In the third series of experiments, focal HPC was administered by selectively cooling the head to achieve a cortical temperature of 28.5 or 31.5°C for 20 minutes, with the duration of HPC fixed at 20 minutes.

The magnitude of tolerance induced by HPC was dependent on the depth and duration of the hypothermic stimulus. The parameters of hypothermia that are capable of inducing tolerance are similar to, or less severe than, those already in clinical use during intraoperative procedures. Focal cooling was as effective as global cooling for eliciting tolerance, indicating that it is possible to establish tolerance while limiting the potential complications of systemic hypothermia.

Conclusions. The results of these experiments indicate that HPC may provide an effective and safe means for limiting cellular injury resulting from predictable periods of central nervous system ischemia.