1. Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University, 1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912, USA.
2. Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University, 1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912, USA.
Neonatal hypoxic-ischemic (HI) injury is a severe complication often leading to neonatal death and long-term neurobehavioral deficits in children. Currently, the only treatment option available for neonatal HI injury is therapeutic hypothermia. However, the necessary specialized equipment, possible adverse side effects, and limited effectiveness of this therapy creates an urgent need for the development of new HI treatment methods. Photobiomodulation (PBM) has been shown to be neuroprotective against multiple brain disorders in animal models, as well as limited human studies. However, the effects of PBM treatment on neonatal HI injury remain unclear.
Methods: Two-minutes PBM (808 nm continuous wave laser, 8 mW/cm2 on neonatal brain) was applied three times weekly on the abdomen of pregnant rats from gestation day 1 (GD1) to GD21. After neonatal right common carotid artery ligation, cortex- and hippocampus-related behavioral deficits due to HI insult were measured using a battery of behavioral tests. The effects of HI insult and PBM pretreatment on infarct size; synaptic, dendritic, and white matter damage; neuronal degeneration; apoptosis; mitochondrial function; mitochondrial fragmentation; oxidative stress; and gliosis were then assessed.
Results: Prenatal PBM treatment significantly improved the survival rate of neonatal rats and decreased infarct size after HI insult. Behavioral tests revealed that prenatal PBM treatment significantly alleviated cortex-related motor deficits and hippocampus-related memory and learning dysfunction. In addition, mitochondrial function and integrity were protected in HI animals treated with PBM. Additional studies revealed that prenatal PBM treatment significantly alleviated HI-induced neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and myeloid cell/astrocyte activation.
Conclusion: Prenatal PBM treatment exerts neuroprotective effects on neonatal HI rats. Underlying mechanisms for this neuroprotection may include preservation of mitochondrial function, reduction of inflammation, and decreased oxidative stress. Our findings support the possible use of PBM treatment in high-risk pregnancies to alleviate or prevent HI-induced brain injury in the perinatal period.
Keywords: Prenatal photobiomodulation, Neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, Mitochondria, Neuroinflammation, Oxidative stress