Background: Presently, little can be done to repair brain tissue after stroke damage. We hypothesized that the mammalian brain has an intrinsic capacity to adapt to low oxygen which would improve outcome from a reversible hypoxic/ischemic episode. Acclimation to chronic hypoxia causes increased capillarity and tissue oxygen levels which may improve the capacity to survive ischemia. Identification of these adaptations will lead to protocols which high risk groups could use to improve recovery and reduce costs. Methods and Findings: Rats were exposed to hypoxia (3 weeks living at 1/2 an atmosphere). After acclimation, capillary density was measured morphometrically and was increased by 30% in the cortex. Novel implantable oxygen sensors showed that partial pressure of oxygen in the brain was increased by 40% in the normal cortex. Infarcts were induced in brain with 1 h reversible middle cerebral artery occlusions. After ischemia (48 h) behavioural scores were improved and T2 weighted MRI lesion volumes were reduced by 52% in acclimated groups. There was a reduction in inflammation indicated by reduced lymphocytes (by 27-33%), and ED1 positive cells (by 35-45%). Conclusions: It is possible to stimulate a natural adaptive mechanism in the brain which will reduce damage and improve outcome for a given ischemic event. Since these adaptations occur after factors such as HIF-1α have returned to baseline, protection is likely related more to morphological changes such as angiogenesis. Such pre-conditioning, perhaps with exercise or pharmaceuticals, would not necessarily reduce the incidence of stroke, but the severity of damage could be reduced by 50%.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences