Object. Thrombolytic treatments for ischemic stroke can restore circulation, but reperfusion injury, mediated by oxygen free radicals, can limit their utility. The authors hypothesized that, during reperfusion, nitric oxide (NO) provides cytoprotection against oxygen free radical species.
Methods. Levels of NO and oxygen free radicals were determined in both reoxygenation in vitro and reperfusion in vivo models using an NO electrochemical probe and high-performance liquid chromatography with the 2,3- and 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid trapping method, before and after addition of the NO donor diethanolamine nitric oxide (DEA/NO).
Reoxygenation after anoxia produced a twofold increase in NO release by human fetal astrocytes and cerebral endothelial cells (p < 0.005). In both cell lines, there was also a two- to threefold increase in oxygen free radical production (p < 0.005). In human fetal astrocytes and cerebral endothelial cells given a single dose of DEA/NO, free radical production dropped fivefold compared with peak ischemic levels (p < 0.001). In a study in which a rat global cerebral ischemia model was used, NO production in a vehicle-treated group increased 48 ± 16% above baseline levels after reperfusion. After intravenous DEA/NO infusion, NO reached 1.6 times the concentration of the postischemic peak in vehicle-treated animals. In vehicle-treated animals during reperfusion, free radical production increased 4.5-fold over basal levels (p < 0.01). After intravenous DEA/NO infusion, free radical production dropped nearly 10-fold compared with peak levels in vehicle-treated animals (p < 0.006). The infarct volume in the vehicle-treated animals was 111 ± 16.9 mm3; after DEA/NO infusion it was 64.8 ± 23.4 mm3 (p < 0.01).
Conclusions. The beneficial effect of early restoration of cerebral circulation after cerebral ischemia is limited by reperfusion injury. These results indicate that NO release and oxygen free radical production increase during reperfusion, and suggest a possible early treatment of reperfusion injury using NO donors.