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Yanlu Zhang, Zheng Gang Zhang, Michael Chopp, Yuling Meng, Li Zhang, Asim Mahmood and Ye Xiong

OBJECTIVE

The authors' previous studies have suggested that thymosin beta 4 (Tβ4), a major actin-sequestering protein, improves functional recovery after neural injury. N-acetyl-seryl-aspartyl-lysyl-proline (AcSDKP) is an active peptide fragment of Tβ4. Its effect as a treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) has not been investigated. Thus, this study was designed to determine whether AcSDKP treatment improves functional recovery in rats after TBI.

METHODS

Young adult male Wistar rats were randomly divided into the following groups: 1) sham group (no injury); 2) TBI + vehicle group (0.01 N acetic acid); and 3) TBI + AcSDKP (0.8 mg/kg/day). TBI was induced by controlled cortical impact over the left parietal cortex. AcSDKP or vehicle was administered subcutaneously starting 1 hour postinjury and continuously for 3 days using an osmotic minipump. Sensorimotor function and spatial learning were assessed using a modified Neurological Severity Score and Morris water maze tests, respectively. Some of the animals were euthanized 1 day after injury, and their brains were processed for measurement of fibrin accumulation and neuroinflammation signaling pathways. The remaining animals were euthanized 35 days after injury, and brain sections were processed for measurement of lesion volume, hippocampal cell loss, angiogenesis, neurogenesis, and dendritic spine remodeling.

RESULTS

Compared with vehicle treatment, AcSDKP treatment initiated 1 hour postinjury significantly improved sensorimotor functional recovery (Days 7–35, p < 0.05) and spatial learning (Days 33–35, p < 0.05), reduced cortical lesion volume, and hippocampal neuronal cell loss, reduced fibrin accumulation and activation of microglia/macrophages, enhanced angiogenesis and neurogenesis, and increased the number of dendritic spines in the injured brain (p < 0.05). AcSDKP treatment also significantly inhibited the transforming growth factor–β1/nuclear factor–κB signaling pathway.

CONCLUSIONS

AcSDKP treatment initiated 1 hour postinjury provides neuroprotection and neurorestoration after TBI, indicating that this small tetrapeptide has promising therapeutic potential for treatment of TBI. Further investigation of the optimal dose and therapeutic window of AcSDKP treatment for TBI and the associated underlying mechanisms is therefore warranted.

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Ye Xiong, Yanlu Zhang, Asim Mahmood, Yuling Meng, Zheng Gang Zhang, Daniel C. Morris and Michael Chopp

Object

Thymosin β4 (Tβ4) is a regenerative multifunctional peptide. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that Tβ4 treatment initiated 6 hours postinjury reduces brain damage and improves functional recovery in rats subjected to traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Methods

Traumatic brain injury was induced by controlled cortical impact over the left parietal cortex in young adult male Wistar rats. The rats were randomly divided into the following groups: 1) saline group (n = 7); 2) 6 mg/kg Tβ4 group (n = 8); and 3) 30 mg/kg Tβ4 group (n = 8). Thymosin β4 or saline was administered intraperitoneally starting at 6 hours postinjury and again at 24 and 48 hours. An additional group of 6 animals underwent surgery without TBI (sham-injury group). Sensorimotor function and spatial learning were assessed using the modified Neurological Severity Score and the Morris water maze test, respectively. Animals were euthanized 35 days after injury, and brain sections were processed to assess lesion volume, hippocampal cell loss, cell proliferation, and neurogenesis after Tβ4 treatment.

Results

Compared with saline administration, Tβ4 treatment initiated 6 hours postinjury significantly improved sensorimotor functional recovery and spatial learning, reduced cortical lesion volume and hippocampal cell loss, and enhanced cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the injured hippocampus. The high dose of Tβ4 showed better beneficial effects compared with the low-dose treatment.

Conclusions

Thymosin β4 treatment initiated 6 hours postinjury provides both neuroprotection and neurorestoration after TBI, indicating that Tβ4 has promising therapeutic potential in patients with TBI. These data warrant further investigation of the optimal dose and therapeutic window of Tβ4 treatment for TBI and the associated underlying mechanisms.

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Yanlu Zhang, Michael Chopp, Yuling Meng, Zheng Gang Zhang, Edith Doppler, Asim Mahmood and Ye Xiong

Object

Cerebrolysin is a unique peptide preparation that mimics the action of neurotrophic factors. This study was designed to investigate the effects of acute treatment of experimental closed head injury (CHI) in rats with Cerebrolysin on neurological function.

Methods

Adult male Wistar rats (n = 60) were subjected to impact acceleration–induced CHI. Closed head injured rats received intraperitoneal injection of saline (n = 30) or Cerebrolysin (2.5 ml/kg, n = 30) starting 1 hour postinjury and administered once daily until they were killed (2 or 14 days after CHI). To evaluate functional outcome, the modified neurological severity score (mNSS), foot fault, adhesive removal, and Morris water maze (MWM) tests were performed. Animals were killed on Day 14 (n = 20) after injury, and their brains were removed and processed for measurement of neuronal cells, axonal damage, apoptosis, and neuroblasts. The remaining rats (n = 40) were killed 2 days postinjury to evaluate cerebral microvascular patency by fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)–dextran perfusion (n = 16) and to measure the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and matrix metalloproteinase–9 (MMP-9) by using real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR, n = 8) and by immunohistochemical analysis (n = 16).

Results

At 14 days post-CHI, the Cerebrolysin treatment group exhibited significant improvements in functional outcomes (the adhesive removal, mNSS, foot-fault, and MWM tests), and significantly more neurons and neuroblasts were present in the dentate gyrus (DG) (p < 0.05) compared with the saline-treated group (p < 0.05). At 2 days post-CHI, the Cerebrolysin group exhibited a significantly higher percentage of phosphorylated neurofilament H (pNF-H)–positive staining area in the striatum (p < 0.05), a significant increase in the percentage of FITC-dextran perfused vessels in the brain cortex (p < 0.05), a significant increase in the number of VEGF-positive cells (p < 0.05), and a significant reduction in the MMP-9 staining area (p < 0.05) compared with the saline-treated group. There was no significant difference in mRNA levels of MMP-9 and VEGF in the hippocampus and cortex 48 hours postinjury between Cerebrolysin- and saline-treated rats that sustained CHI.

Conclusions

Acute Cerebrolysin treatment improves functional recovery in rats after CHI. Cerebrolysin is neuroprotective for CHI (increased neurons in the dentate gyrus and the CA3 regions of the hippocampus and increased neuroblasts in the dentate gyrus) and may preserve axonal integrity in the striatum (significantly increased percentage of pNF-H–positive tissue in the striatum). Reduction of MMP-9 and elevation of VEGF likely contribute to enhancement of vascular patency and integrity as well as neuronal survival induced by Cerebrolysin. These promising results suggest that Cerebrolysin may be a useful treatment in improving the recovery of patients with CHI.

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Yanlu Zhang, Michael Chopp, Zheng Gang Zhang, Yi Zhang, Li Zhang, Mei Lu, Talan Zhang, Stefan Winter, Hemma Brandstätter, Asim Mahmood and Ye Xiong

OBJECTIVE

Cerebrolysin is a neuropeptide preparation that mimics the properties of neurotrophic factors and has had beneficial effects in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). To further evaluate treatment schemes, the authors assessed the dose-response of Cerebrolysin on functional improvement in a rat model of mild TBI (mTBI).

METHODS

This dose-response study was a prospective, randomized, blinded, and placebo-controlled preclinical experiment. Male Wistar adult rats, subjected to mTBI induced by a closed head impact, were treated randomly with 0 (saline as placebo), 0.8, 2.5, or 7.5 ml/kg of Cerebrolysin 4 hours after mTBI and daily for a total of 10 consecutive days. A battery of cognitive and sensorimotor functional tests was performed over 90 days.

RESULTS

The primary outcome was functional improvement over the 90 days; animal weight and death were the secondary and safety outcomes, respectively. A significant (p < 0.001) dose effect of Cerebrolysin on cognitive recovery 3 months after injury was found. Cerebrolysin at a dose of ≥ 0.8 ml/kg significantly (p < 0.001) improved cognitive outcome. The higher dose (7.5 ml/kg) resulted in significantly better cognitive recovery than the lowest doses (0.8 ml/kg) but not relative to the 2.5-ml/kg dose. Cerebrolysin at a dose of 2.5 or 7.5 ml/kg also caused different onset times of significant improvement in sensorimotor function. No differences in body weight or mortality rate among the groups were found.

CONCLUSIONS

This preclinical randomized, placebo-controlled, and blinded study with a clinically relevant treatment scheme revealed that Cerebrolysin at doses of 0.8–7.5 ml/kg, administered 4 hours after mTBI and then once daily for a total of 10 consecutive days, improved functional outcomes 3 months after injury. A dose of 2.5 ml/kg is likely an optimal dose for the treatment of experimental mTBI.

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Yanlu Zhang, Michael Chopp, Yi Zhang, Zheng Gang Zhang, Mei Lu, Talan Zhang, Kuan-Han H. Wu, Li Zhang, Asim Mahmood and Ye Xiong

OBJECTIVE

The authors previously demonstrated that Cerebrolysin is effective for treatment of mild closed head injury (CHI) when administered 4 hours after injury. The aim of this study was to determine Cerebrolysin’s effects on functional and histological outcomes in rats subjected to moderate CHI.

METHODS

In this randomized, blinded, and vehicle-controlled preclinical trial, male adult Wistar rats subjected to moderate CHI received either Cerebrolysin treatment at a dose of 2.5 ml/kg (n = 13) or vehicle (saline, n = 13) intraperitoneally administered daily for 10 days, starting at 4 hours after injury. Animals were subjected to cognitive and sensorimotor functional tests at multiple time points, and they were killed 3 months after injury. The brains were processed for analyses of neuronal cell loss, amyloid precursor protein, axonal damage, and neurogenesis.

RESULTS

Compared with rats treated with vehicle (saline), rats treated with Cerebrolysin had significantly increased numbers of neuroblasts and newborn mature neurons in the dentate gyrus (DG) and attenuated amyloid precursor protein accumulation and axonal damage in various brain regions, as well as decreased neuronal loss in the DG and cornu ammonis 3 (CA3) region of the hippocampus (p < 0.05). Global testing using generalized estimating equations showed a significant beneficial effect of Cerebrolysin treatment on sensorimotor functional outcomes from 1 day to 3 months after injury compared to that of saline treatment (p < 0.05). Compared with vehicle-treated rats, Cerebrolysin-treated rats showed significantly and robustly improved long-term (up to 3 months) cognitive functional recovery, as measured by social interaction, Morris water maze, novel object recognition, and odor recognition tests. In the Cerebrolysin-treated rats there were significant correlations between multiple histological outcomes and functional recovery evident 3 months after moderate CHI, as indicated by Pearson partial correlation analyses.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors’ findings demonstrate that Cerebrolysin treatment significantly improves long-term functional and histological outcomes in rats with moderate CHI, with functional outcomes significantly correlated with histological indices of neuroplasticity and neuroprotection. These data indicate that Cerebrolysin may be useful for the treatment of moderate CHI.

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Asim Mahmood, Dunyue Lu, Changsheng Qu, Anton Goussev, Zheng Gang Zhang, Chang Lu and Michael Chopp

Object

This study was designed to investigate the neuroprotective properties of recombinant erythropoietin (EPO) and carbamylated erythropoietin (CEPO) administered following traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rats.

Methods

Sixty adult male Wistar rats were injured with controlled cortical impact, and then EPO, CEPO, or a placebo (phosphate-buffered saline) was injected intraperitoneally. These injections were performed either 6 or 24 hours after TBI. To label newly regenerating cells, bromodeoxyuridine was injected intraperitoneally for 14 days after TBI. Blood samples were obtained on Days 1, 2, 3, 7, 14, and 35 to measure hematocrit. Spatial learning was tested using the Morris water maze. All rats were killed 35 days after TBI. Brain sections were immunostained as well as processed for the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to measure brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Results

A statistically significant improvement in spatial learning was seen in rats treated with either EPO or CEPO 6 or 24 hours after TBI (p < 0.05); there was no difference in the effects of EPO and CEPO. Also, these drugs were equally effective in increasing the number of newly proliferating cells within the dentate gyrus at both time points. A statistically significant increase in BDNF expression was seen in animals treated with both EPO derivatives at 6 or 24 hours after TBI. Systemic hematocrit was significantly increased at 48 hours and 1 and 2 weeks after treatment with EPO but not with CEPO.

Conclusions

These data demonstrate that at the doses used, EPO and CEPO are equally effective in enhancing spatial learning and promoting neural plasticity after TBI.

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Yanlu Zhang, Michael Chopp, Yuling Meng, Zheng Gang Zhang, Edith Doppler, Stefan Winter, Timothy Schallert, Asim Mahmood and Ye Xiong

OBJECT

Long-term memory deficits occur after mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs), and effective treatment modalities are currently unavailable. Cerebrolysin, a peptide preparation mimicking the action of neurotrophic factors, has beneficial effects on neurodegenerative diseases and brain injuries. The present study investigated the long-term effects of Cerebrolysin treatment on cognitive function in rats after mTBI.

METHODS

Rats subjected to closed-head mTBI were treated with saline (n = 11) or Cerebrolysin (2.5 ml/kg, n = 11) starting 24 hours after injury and then daily for 28 days. Sham animals underwent surgery without injury (n = 8). To evaluate cognitive function, the modified Morris water maze (MWM) test and a social odor–based novelty recognition task were performed after mTBI. All rats were killed on Day 90 after mTBI, and brain sections were immunostained for histological analyses of amyloid precursor protein (APP), astrogliosis, neuroblasts, and neurogenesis.

RESULTS

Mild TBI caused long-lasting cognitive memory deficits in the MWM and social odor recognition tests up to 90 days after injury. Compared with saline treatment, Cerebrolysin treatment significantly improved both long-term spatial learning and memory in the MWM test and nonspatial recognition memory in the social odor recognition task up to 90 days after mTBI (p < 0.05). Cerebrolysin significantly increased the number of neuroblasts and promoted neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus, and it reduced APP levels and astrogliosis in the corpus callosum, cortex, dentate gyrus, CA1, and CA3 regions (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

These results indicate that Cerebrolysin treatment of mTBI improves long-term cognitive function, and this improvement may be partially related to decreased brain APP accumulation and astrogliosis as well as increased neuroblasts and neurogenesis.

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Ye Xiong, Asim Mahmood, Yanlu Zhang, Yuling Meng, Zheng Gang Zhang, Changsheng Qu, Thomas N. Sager and Michael Chopp

Object

Carbamylated erythropoietin (CEPO) is a modified erythropoietin molecule that does not affect hematocrit. In this study, the authors compared the efficacy of a single dose with a triple dose of CEPO treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rats.

Methods

Traumatic brain injury was induced by controlled cortical impact over the left parietal cortex. Carbamylated erythropoietin (50 μg/kg) was administered intraperitoneally in rats with TBI at 6 hours (CEPO × 1) or at 6, 24, and 48 hours (CEPO × 3) postinjury. Neurological function was assessed using a modified neurological severity score and foot fault and Morris water maze tests. Animals were killed 35 days after injury, and brain sections were stained for immunohistochemical analysis to assess lesion volume, cell loss, cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and neurogenesis after CEPO treatment.

Results

Compared with the vehicle treatment, single treatment of CEPO (6 hours) significantly reduced lesion volume and hippocampal cell loss, enhanced angiogenesis and neurogenesis in the injured cortex and hippocampus, and significantly improved sensorimotor functional recovery and spatial learning in rats after TBI. Importantly, triple dosing of CEPO (6, 24, and 48 hours) further reduced lesion volume and improved functional recovery and neurogenesis compared with the CEPO × 1 group.

Conclusions

The authors' results indicate that CEPO has considerable therapeutic potential in TBI and related pathologies and furthermore that repeated dosing in the subacute phase might have important pharmacological relevance.

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Ye Xiong, Asim Mahmood, Yuling Meng, Yanlu Zhang, Zheng Gang Zhang, Daniel C. Morris and Michael Chopp

Object

This study was designed to investigate the efficacy of delayed thymosin β4 (Tβ4) treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rats.

Methods

Young adult male Wistar rats were divided into the following groups: 1) sham group (6 rats); 2) TBI + saline group (9 rats); 3) and TBI + Tβ4 group (10 rats). Traumatic brain injury was induced by controlled cortical impact over the left parietal cortex. Thymosin β4 (6 mg/kg) or saline was administered intraperitoneally starting at Day 1 and then every 3 days for an additional 4 doses. Neurological function was assessed using a modified neurological severity score (mNSS), foot fault, and Morris water maze tests. Animals were killed 35 days after injury, and brain sections were stained for immunohistochemistry to assess angiogenesis, neurogenesis, and oligodendrogenesis after Tβ4 treatment.

Results

Compared with the saline treatment, delayed Tβ4 treatment did not affect lesion volume but significantly reduced hippocampal cell loss, enhanced angiogenesis and neurogenesis in the injured cortex and hippocampus, increased oligodendrogenesis in the CA3 region, and significantly improved sensorimotor functional recovery and spatial learning.

Conclusions

These data for the first time demonstrate that delayed administration of Tβ4 significantly improves histological and functional outcomes in rats with TBI, indicating that Tβ4 has considerable therapeutic potential for patients with TBI.

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Dunyue Lu, Asim Mahmood, Anton Goussev, Timothy Schallert, Changsheng Qu, Zheng Gang Zhang, Yi Li, Mei Lu and Michael Chopp

Object. Atorvastatin, a β-hydroxy-β-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitor, has pleiotropic effects, such as promoting angiogenesis, increasing fibrinolysis, and reducing inflammatory responses, and has shown promise in enhancing recovery in animals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke. The authors tested the effect of atorvastatin on vascular changes after TBI.

Methods. Male Wistar rats subjected to controlled cortical impact injury were perfused at different time points with fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)—conjugated dextran 1 minute before being killed. Spatial memory function had been measured using a Morris Water Maze test at various points before and after TBI. The temporal profile of intravascular thrombosis and vascular changes was measured on brain tissue sections by using a microcomputer imaging device and a laser confocal microscopy. The study revealed the following results. 1) Vessels in the lesion boundary zone and hippocampal CA3 region showed a variety of damage, morphological alterations, reduced perfusion, and intraluminal microthrombin formation. 2) Atorvastatin enhanced FITC—dextran perfusion of vessels and reduced intravascular coagulation. 3) Atorvastatin promoted the restoration of spatial memory function.

Conclusions. These results indicated that atorvastatin warrants investigation as a potential therapeutic drug for TBI.